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Stories from First-Generation Graduates

image of Richard Brungard

Richard Brungard
Academic Adviser
Center for Advising and Engagement


I am a first-generation college student, and now I'm a graduate. I am number five of six siblings and was the first one in my family to go to college. My father had a high school diploma and my mother had a 10th-grade education. I went to a small community college close to home because my father would be able to help me out, a little, with tuition, but I was on my own with student loans when I left the Williamsport Area Community College for the University of Houston.  

My parents were very supportive of my move and very proud, however, they really had no words of advice they could offer me. I was not in a college prep program in high school; it was something I never thought to do. Education was important to my parents, but they did not know how to support me. 

I went to the University of Houston (UH) without having visited the campus because that was something I could not afford. However, I learned to love the campus and the city even though it was a culture shock for me moving from a small town in Central PA to Houston, TX. I was a transfer student and lived in the dorms that first year at UH. Residence Life put me on a floor with only other transfer students, which was a blessing because I made friends quickly; we were all new, excited and somewhat scared.  

I was a Hotel and Restaurant Management major, which I loved, but I struggled in the GenEd courses, especially math and science which I was never strong in. I did not realize that tutoring was something that was available to me, so I did not take advantage of it, and my grades showed. 

I also worked many hours because I needed the money. Fortunately, hotel and restaurant jobs were plentiful in a large city, and those jobs built my undergraduate resume that helped me get a job out of college. Since I was working so many hours, my GPA suffered.  

My study skills were also weak and something I did not know you could learn; I just assumed they were instinctual. I struggled getting through college and graduated with a low GPA. I was very lucky that I was in an applied discipline, and it was a combination of my degree and strong resume that started my career out of college. I wish I had known that there were resources on campus to help me be more successful in my academic goals. This is something I did not learn at home. 

Years later when I decided to go back to graduate school, I knew it would be a struggle because of my low undergraduate GPA. I was accepted on probation into a graduate program. By this point I was older and more mature; I knew I needed stronger study skills and that I would need to develop more of a relationship with my professors to be successful. I graduated with a 3.96 GPA from my graduate program. I wish I had learned what I needed to do to be successful in my undergraduate program and that there were people at the university I could have reached out to.