- For most high school seniors pursuing a college education, the application process and the college experience itself is a simple and smooth process.
- “Seeing how hard my parents had to work without having a degree was enough motivation for me to want to go to college,” Ermin Rizvanovic, a first-generation student, said
- A first-generation student is defined as a college-degree seeking individual coming from a household where neither parents have a bachelor’s degree.
- A feature over the college experience from the perspective of a first-generation student.
A Different Perspective
After graduating from Oak Park High School in 2012, Ermin Rizvanovic attended the University of St. Mary on a men’s soccer scholarship. After his second semester, Rizvanovic transferred to Missouri State University to focus on academics. While the outcome has been rewarding, the process of attending college and participating in athletics as a first-generation student was difficult.
“I was at a disadvantage in many cases because of my lack of resources and guidance,” said Ermin Rizvanovic, now an MSU senior.
For many first-generation students including Rizvanovic, the hardest part of attending college is the preparation it takes. Because most first-generation students’ parents didn’t have the college experience themselves, little participation occurs when going through the process of applying for schools, financial aid, and looking into athletics programs.
“I didn’t really have parents who could help me with my homework, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Aid) or filling out college applications, so I had to learn everything on my own,” said Rizvanovic.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 30 percent of entering freshmen are first-generation college students. According to research conducted by the College of Arts and Letters, approximately 30-45 precent of degree-seeking students at MSU define themselves as “first-generation.”
“It was stressed at a very young age that school was a top priority from my parents, but it was hard to transition from the hands-on environment in high school without any help and wisdom,” Rizvanovic said.
Rizvanovic also struggled in finding his way to participate in a college soccer program, but found it necessary to excel in athletics.
“For me playing soccer was my way of paying for college. My parents worked really hard without getting degrees so paying for college in an alternative way was an advantage,” said Rizvanovic, whose not alone, as research conducted by the NCAA reports that one in five college athletes are also first-generation students.
With over one-third of the MSU campus population coming from this background, it’s important to provide access to resources and support unique to first-generation student struggles.
MSU currently offers a variety of resources for first generation students, including the “I’m First” program which offers engagement opportunities for first-generation students.
“I think it’s important that college campuses work to provide programs and opportunities for first-generation students,” says Rizvanovic.
“I’m a social person, so making friends and getting by worked for me, but I know it’s not that easy for everyone,” Rizvanovic continued.
Although making a school decision and the process of applying to college in general was difficult for Rizvanovic, the lessons he learned from being a first-generation student were priceless.
“I would definitely say that attending college was worth the struggles. I gained a lot of life experience that I couldn’t get from anywhere else,” said Rizvanovic.
Post-graduation, Rizvanovic plans to seek a career in marketing in his hometown of Kansas City.