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First-In-Family Challenges



First-In-Family Challenges At College of the Desert

At College of the Desert, first-in-family college students, or first-generation students, make up 84% of the student body. As the first members of their family to attend college, these students will face unique challenges and hurdles in their higher education journey.

Unfortunately, these hurdles can become insurmountable in some cases, leading these students to quit school before completing their degree or certificate, or other educational goal.

Some of the unique difficulties first-in-family students can face include:

  • Confusion and Anxiety – First-in-family students can have confusion over the entire college process, from application to graduation to job or university transfer. These students may not be aware of the resources available to them, or what kinds of careers are available for them to pursue. Then they may feel anxiety, “Am I cut out to be a college student?” and may believe that, despite getting into COD, they do not have what it takes to succeed.
  • Financial Pressures – Many first-generation college students face the financial burden of their education alone. Others wonder if it is fair for them to be at school while their parents struggle financially to help pay for their education, and feel that they need to help support their family. 


  • Guilty Pleasure – As the first person in their family to attend college, some of these students feel a sense of guilt over their opportunity. While this guilt can motivate some to succeed, others have difficulty overcoming the negative emotions. 
  • Embarrassment and Resentment – Some first-generation college students feel a sense of embarrassment or shame about their advanced age or socioeconomic status or the level of education in their family compared to other students. They may also be embarrassed or ashamed of their academic performance, if it is not as good as they or their families would like. Finally, these students may also perceive resentment from members of their families or extended families about them being able to attend college.
  • Learning to be a College Student  – Of course these students, like all new students, will face how to manage and prioritize their college freedoms such as deciding when to eat, sleep, study, attend class, and relax, so they can make appropriate choices. Mastering time-management skills significantly improves students chances of completing their educational goals. 
While these are just some of many hurdles first-in-family students may face, the College’s Student Success Initiatives are helping students address their challenges or removing some of the challenges completely. Additional counselors, expanded programs, new opportunities for career planning and work-related experience are just a few of the ways the initiatives are making a difference for these first timers. Click here to see more about the initiatives.