First-Generation Students Continue to Face Barriers Post-Graduation


Getting to and through college is an amazing feat for first-generation students. But, the challenges this student population faces do not stop post-graduation.

From parental connections to internships to the ability to buy a suit for interviews, the road from first-generation student to first-generation professional is a bumpy one.

“Parents play a surprising role in deploying their networks to help their offspring get jobs,” Elizabeth Armstrong, a University of Michigan sociologist, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“…Simply getting a college degree doesn’t mean you’ll catch up to people born with advantage. There is definitely inequality at play.”

Internships, which are often unpaid, are not typically an option for first-generation students. Neither is holding out for the perfect post-graduation job without a familial safety net.

Out of short-term necessity, students are “vulnerable to locking themselves into jobs that limit their long-term mobility,” Ashley Rondini, sociologist at Franklin and Marshall College (PA) said.

Cathy Tran, a first-generation student about to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, is facing these barriers now.

“I feel like I’m so behind,” she told the Inquirer. “I didn’t know about internships, I thought it was rude and transactional to ask professors for help getting jobs, and I didn’t grow up with family members in professional jobs.”

Read the full article and explore NACAC’s resource for first-generation college students.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at

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