Speaking up for the invisible minority: First-generation students in higher education

Vijayvardhan Kamalumpundi, Sophielle Silvers, Latisha Franklin, Kit Neikirk, Elsie Spencer, Heather K. Beasley, Celestine N. Wanajalla, Zer Vue, Amber Crabtree, Annet Kirabo, Jennifer A. Gaddy, Steven M. Damo, Melanie R. McReynolds, Latanya H. Odie, Sandra A. Murray, Maria E. Zavala, Arnaldo D. Vazquez, Antentor Hinton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A first-generation college student is typically defined as a student whose biological parent(s) or guardian(s) never attended college or who started but did not finish college. However, “first-generation” can represent diverse family education situations. The first-generation student community is a multifaceted, and intersectional group of individuals who frequently lack educational/financial resources to succeed and, consequently, require supportive environments with rigorous mentorship. However, first-generation students often do not make their identity as first-generation students known to others due to several psychosocial and academic factors. Therefore, they are often “invisible minorities” in higher education. In this paper, we describe the diverse family situations of first-generation students, further define “first-generation,” and suggest five actions that first-generation trainees at the undergraduate/graduate stages can engage in to succeed in an academic climate. We also provide suggestions for mentors to accommodate first-generation students' unique experiences and equip them with tools to deliver intentional mentoring practices. We hope that this paper will help promote first-generation student success throughout the academic pipeline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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