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The Chronicle of Higher Education: For First-Generation Students, Crucial Support

Posted by The Chronicle of Higher Education Oct. 28, 2013.

By Eugene McCormack

When Amanda Aldama was applying to college, she couldn’t rely on her family for help. Her mother and grandparents, whom she lived with in San Jose, Calif., had not graduated from high school, nor had any of her cousins. She struggled as she tried to navigate the financial-aid system largely on her own.

When she enrolled at San Jose State University, she faced new challenges. She found college-level work far more difficult than her high-school courses. And she had to explain to her family why it was important to take part in extracurricular activities.

“There was a feeling of them wanting to understand and to help, but not knowing how,” she says.

Ms. Aldama’s story is hardly unique at San Jose State, a commuter campus of about 28,000 students where the parents of over half the freshmen did not attend or complete college. That’s why the university recently put a high priority on establishing programs to improve the experience of first-generation students.

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