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Celebrating First-Generation College Students By: Haleigh Smith

Nov. 8, is nationally recognized as First-Generation College Student Day.

This day is meant to honor and celebrate those who have taken a step of faith to be the first one in their families to pursue a college-level degree. Hardin-Simmons University took part in this celebration by providing an exhibit for current students and faculty who identify as first- generation students to highlight their stories and experiences.

This was special because it is hard to be the first one in your family to change the future for the future generations. According to, 46 percent of college students are first generational and 65 percent of that population go on to continue their education with a master’s degree and/or doctorate.

Many first-generation college students have had experiences which make finding the motivation to keep going and finish college strong is difficult, especially as a senior. As a first- generation college student, it was especially difficult from start to finish. My parents were extremely helpful in supporting me but they were unable to provide advice on who to speak to and what resources to use when I needed help. This meant that it was my job to figure it out.

During the celebration, organized largely by director of Student Engagement and First Year Experience, P.J. Martinez, first-generation college students in all positions were able to come together and talk about our journeys. I could not help getting emotional and overwhelmed with joy that each of us in that room were the start of a meaningful generational change. College is hard in itself but being a college student with little knowledge of how to navigate the process is hard and sometimes even frightening. If you are a first-generation college student, pat yourself on the back because you deserve it. If you know a first-generation college student, remind them that they should be proud of themselves and what they are accomplishing.


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