First-Generation Stories

Thousands of first-generation students have come through Purdue University - some have come back to share their own experiences and advice. Read their stories below!

'Proud to be F1RST!' Celebration Testimonials

Purdue First-Gen Alumni Testimonials

How have your first-generation student experiences contributed to your personal and/or professional success?

Being a first-generation college student made me more driven. I wanted to prove to everyone around me (and myself) that I deserved to be in college and to be successful.

I was forced to become an excellent problem-solver, which has benefitted me in every endeavor since. While my family was generally supportive, they didn’t understand what I was going through or how to help me. I learned the importance of asking questions and utilizing my resources early on in my college experience. This made me feel independent and helped me build resilience.

Jessica Ramsey

Director of Advising, Purdue Honors College

How can Purdue continue to support its first-generation student experiences?

First Gen status needs to be embraced as an identity to be respected and valued. The status can’t be changed but I believe if we attach value and respect to it, First Gen students will gain awareness of what it means and seek out what they don’t know.

Dan Carpenter

Director of Student Success Programs

How have your first-generation student experiences contributed to your personal and/or professional success?

I believe being a first-generation student made me more intentional, disciplined and determined when it came to planning, working toward and fulfilling my goals.

I was/am more: (1) self-sufficient, instinctual, determined; (2) proud of where and how far I have come from, while also humble regrading achievements and recognitions garnered, knowing full well that others have supported and assisted me along the journey; (3) empathetic of others, knowing or at least starting with the assumption that everyone desires to be and do better when provided with the opportunity to succeed.

Marcos Fernandez

Purdue Professor of Animal Sciences

Personal experiences as a first-generation college student:

I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Rochester, New York. We lived in a small house across from a land-locked marina. I attended a mediocre public high school. No one on my Italian family had attended college, and I was the first to even consider applying. When I was accepted to a college, I was able to attend only because I received a scholarship, a loan, and a work-study offer. I suspect now that my admission to that prestigious research university may have helped fill out the “socio-economic diversity” of the incoming class.

From my arrival on campus, I felt out of place among most of the other students and professors. It became evident that although I looked similar, I felt different. The others had seemed to have similar experiences and seemed to have lived differently than I, in many ways. For example, I had not travelled very far from Rochester, had never flown, and did not even have a driver’s license, since there was not a car for me to drive. My cultural mismatch was labeled by my hall-mates as I was given an ethnic nickname. But I was lucky to have grown up with the love and support of two parents in a stable home with strict rules and ample food. Most importantly, I had been encouraged to enjoy learning, to control my life and emotions, and to take responsibility for my actions/decisions.

During registration, the university had made it clear that academically I was in the bottom quartile of the entering class, and my grades after the first semester confirmed their assessment. My parents viewed my poor grades in a kind and simple manner, noting that I had passed all of my courses. As I became more comfortable with my classmates, I realized that I was just as smart as they were. We had just experienced life differently before college. I had not even been on the campus until the first day of orientation. I knew that I could do better and that my effort was lacking. My competitive nature compelled me to want to outperform my classmates.

Luckily, I lived in a residence hall with a great roommate and a group of people who I learned all had their own unique challenges. We played a lot of basketball (probably too much at first) and supported each other. But the primary catalyst for my route to college success was actually meeting the girl who lived in the room above me in the hall. For me, she became the motivation that I needed to take my studies seriously and to learn how to manage my time effectively. She helped me to refine my actions and thoughts. As we dated throughout college, my grades improved, my outlook on life improved, and my chances of success in a career improved.

Dennis Minchella

Associate Dean and Professor of Biological Sciences

How have your first-generation student experiences contributed to your personal and/or professional success?

Being a first generation student has given me life-long skills and confidence to take on challenges in my personal and professional life. I know that I capable of accomplishing difficult tasks and completed them successfully.

Cassandra Salazar

Student Affairs Specialist