The challenges of being a first-generation college student have increased tenfold this year as COVID-19 runs rampant on university campuses. On top of navigating an already new experience, first generation students must deal with the universally unfamiliar situation of going to college during a global pandemic.
“As far as college experience specifically, I feel like the traditional college experience has almost been washed away due to online classes and having to social distance,” said Brooke Daugherty, a first-generation student.
For an already nontraditional commuter campus, the difficulties of creating the quintessential
college experience have increased without in-person sports events and organization fairs.
UMKC freshman Dah Be Too has struggled with the new social challenges. “It has ruined the opportunity to interact with teachers and students on campus. It also brought fear to me and my parents every time I go on campus because of COVID-19,” said Too.
“The stress of COVID-19 has impacted almost everything in my life so far. I’m considered high risk, so I’ve had to be really careful any time I leave the house,” said Daugherty. “As a First Gen Roo and a freshman, I was already stressed trying to adapt to everything, and COVID-19 has just added to it.”
Alongside the social and health complications of this semester, first-generation students also find difficulty adapting to an all-online model and not knowing where to go for help.
“I was really hoping to step foot on campus on my first day of college, but sadly, it was on Zoom. I have a hard time teaching myself online because I learn better face to face. It was confusing at first, and [I] had to get used to using Canvas. It was also hard finding my required books online,” said Too.
However, the semester has not been entirely negative. Daugherty said that, so far, her semester has been “really enjoyable,” adding that she has received a lot of support from her mentor through UMKC’s First Gen Roo program.
The program seeks to assist first generation college students by giving them an early introduction to campus, a textbook stipend, and programs to teach them about self care, financial literacy, and using college technology.
Mia Flynn, First Gen Roo’s student program coordinator, explained the necessity of this program.
“I think now, more than ever, I am happy First Gen Roo exists for our students. The program is here as a support for folks who are largely navigating the college experience on their own,” said Flynn. “With COVID, there is even more to navigate and even more uncertainty. The opportunity to answer students’ questions and provide mentorship right now is so crucial.”