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Support for first-gen students

first generation student

By Abdirahman M. Jama

The University of Washington Bothell is home to a diverse body of students and for many, they are the first in their families to attend college. A first generation college student is a student whose parent(s)/legal guardians have not completed a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university and are the first in their immediate family to attend a college or university. This circumstance comes with difficulties of its own; UW Bothell strives to understand the needs of these students.

According to U.S Department of Education, roughly a third of undergrad college students in the U.S. are first generation students. More than 50 percent of UW Bothell’s first year students are first generation. “Being a first generation student myself, I often struggled with having little to no knowledge of the expectations and resources associated with a college campus,” explained Abdikani Ali, business major at UW Bothell (’17). The absence of experience may prevent first generation students from being aware of and taking advantages of opportunities that may be available to them to fully benefit their higher education journey.

“Lack of adequate academic preparation is only one of their challenges, since understanding how to navigate the university environment and the student success strategies that go with it and finding a sense of social belonging are often larger hindrances,” says Leslie Ashbaugh, assistant vice chancellor for academic achievement and the First Year and Pre-Major Program (FYPP).

The average bachelor of arts degree attainment rate for first generation students at public four year institutions is 49 percent. UW Bothell averages 65 percent, well above the national average.

“As a first generation student, getting my bachelor’s degree has had a positive effect on my family. My sister and I have been able to set an example of leadership and success for our nephew, and younger cousins,” says Marlene Manzo, (IAS, '14).

With organizations like the First Generation Network, UW Bothell is on the forefront of identifying possible deterrents and educating students on available opportunities and positive navigation strategies to succeed. “This program is supposed to help with the transitional needs,” says Jay Flores, First Generation Network Lead. “This program catches first generation students in the beginning.”

While there is still work to be done, UW Bothell is a leading institution in providing additional assistance to those who need it and is creating the foundation to help first generation students.