Being a First-Generation College Student in the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced
Are you a first-generation college student at UC Merced studying in the School of Natural Sciences? About 73% of our student body are the first to attend college in their families. If you are one of our SNS first gen students, know that you bring a lot to the classroom and the lab! First-generation students are known for their initiative, resilience, pride and loyalty to family, a strong work ethic, and value their education. But what are you actually going through as you pursue your degree? Click the link below to watch a video about being a first-generation college student:
Being a first-generation college student means your parents or caregivers did not attend college and may not have the knowledge to support you in the experiences you are going through as a UC Merced student pursuing a Natural Sciences degree. You may be feel you don’t have the ‘cultural capital’ (knowledge of university life) or the support networks to navigate a successful degree. You may also feel that you don’t belong (imposter syndrome), that there’s just not enough time to study (family/work commitments), or you may struggle in asking for help (you’ve always been a do-it-yourself type of person). The expectations to succeed and honor your family may feel overwhelming. You are not alone and you have a community of fellow students, staff, and faculty all striving for the goal of supporting you on your journey!
How First Gen UCM Students Succeed in STEM Courses
As a first-generation student studying either Biology, Chemistry, Math, Physics, or Environmental Science, you can apply strategies to succeed in your STEM courses. Rob Thorne, a Physics professor at Cornell University and a first-generation college graduate, provides three simple suggestions:
You Get a Lot of Credit for Showing Up: In the introductory physics classes I teach, students get a lot of points toward their final grade just for showing up regularly and making a good effort. Many first-generation students don't do that, and it costs them dearly.
Developing Expertise Takes Time and Effort: Many students don't appreciate just how much effort even the “smartest” students have to put in to master a subject, especially problem-solving-oriented subjects like Physics.
Self-Image is Important, too: First-gen students also get trapped by their own harsh judgments of themselves relative to their classmates. “How can I ever compete with her? I will never see an A minus or a B minus again. “…recognizing that the working world is a rich ecosystem…can help them maintain their motivation.”
Read the entire article here: 3 Ways to Help First-Gen College Students Survive STEM Courses
First-Generation Faculty and Staff Support
Here are examples of how the UC Merced Faculty, the University of California, and the Educational Community support first-generation college students:
First Gen STEM Students on the Web
How Internships Connect First Generation College Bound Students to STEM Careers (UC Merced is mentioned!)