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You may have heard the term "First in Family" when researching or talking to people about higher education. But what does it mean? Elara, from FutureHY, tells us more! 

Two thirds of university students are first in family, and if you are reading this there is a chance you are, or are about to be, a first in family student, too. It simply means that no one in your family before you have attended university. This is something to be celebrated and encouraged, as you are not alone in this process.

As the intake of students into Higher Education grow, there is a significantly larger intake of First in Family students. Although the growth of first in family numbers can argue that the cohort is less marginalised, first in family students are still limited. This article states that first in family students are more likely to drop out of higher education, showing that there is a need for education and support for first in family students. The high dropout rates are also proven through a study of 7,707 students, with the conclusions reporting that 28% of students have started but not finished a university degree. So, why is this happening, and how can it be solved?

A reason behind the high number of first in family students dropping out comes through the ability to access and understand resources. By being the first to attend university, a student is likely to have less of an understanding of certain areas about student life, compared to a family with generations of alumni. If a student is unsure of who to ask to access a certain resource, it quickly becomes a barrier. Further to this, the lack of true understanding from parents/guardians can also cause frustration on both parts, especially as a parent/guardian is likely to want to see you succeed but does not understand higher education.

The good news is that you are not alone any of these situations. The likelihood is that the university you are going to has a high percentage of first in family students just like you. This is something that can be used to your advantage as making friends and collaborating to find help and resources at university has proven to help first in family students. This article explains the importance of friendships for academic success, with the consensus that students with friendships in the same classes can converse about and understand the topic more. It also builds up a sense of community and friendship on the university campus, which is essential for first in family students. Community is something you will thrive on at university, and the more people you know, the less you are likely to feel isolated. It will also help you academically, as asking a friend a question about your degree is sometimes a lot less daunting than asking a lecturer (although they are always there to help!).

Being a first in family student myself, I found it hard to navigate my first year of university. It was a struggle to try and understand the new university processes myself, never mind my parents. When I went home, I would try and explain these new processes to my parents, but there was a struggle for them to understand when I had barely even understood in the first place. I know that they were asking me all of this because they cared and wanted to see me succeed, but sometimes it is a bit tricky to understand how a 2:1 is a really good grade when a first is still there to grab. I found that the solution to this is time. Your parents are trying to understand and educate themselves as much as you are to try and support you. There eventually comes a time where you do know more than them, but you are able to clearly describe and explain it.

For any parents/guardians reading this then please know that everyone with a descendant that is first in family feel out of their depth. It is not uncommon to feel like you cannot help, but please know that there is help if you are struggling to support someone who is first in family. In particular, this website offers a multitude of help if you are struggling. It offers guidance for change and how to adapt through first-hand experiences, and offers a ‘survival pack’ that can help support your family. You soon find that you notice the things that is needed, and asking questions when you are confused always helps, too.

Finally, if you are struggling financially because you are a first in family student, there are bursaries and scholarships available. This website explains what scholarships are available where, and who qualifies for them. It is worth having a look into them because you never know, you may be entitled to it, and who isn’t going to turn down money to help pay for your studies? Most universities do have finances available if you are struggling, so don’t be afraid to look into your options if you are affected.

University was one of the best three years of my life so far, and I am incredibly glad I jumped into it. I encourage you to do the same, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. To complete your degree, you are going against the 28% that drop out. It will be tough, but surround yourself with friends, make yourself known to your lecturers and you will always have a community to fall back on.

To hear from other students in a similar situations, there are also chat rooms available on the student room.

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