Recently I was given an article about how to teach first-generation college students and I disagreed with just about everything the article said describing first gen college kids, especially since I am one.
My peers also agreed that the article was very stereotypical and placed first-gen students in a small box instead of discussing the attributes of different types of first-gen students.
We are all very different types of students, from extremely motivated and driven to those that just cruise through school. The article I read described all first-generation students as the type that isolated themselves and struggled in school. This is not the case for myself and for the other students I spoke too. We took the most advanced classes in high school so when we got to college we would be prepared for the coursework and be able to become heavily involved in clubs.
As for the isolation aspect of first-generation students, this is also not true for all of us. I joined a sorority and became a tour guide and peer instructor for my school while some others chose to join political debate groups or service organizations. While we enjoy our alone time, just like any other student, we do not isolate ourselves because we don't know how to work the system.
While I may not fit the stereotype described in the article, some first-gen students do and that's okay. College can be overwhelming for some and most campuses have resources to help those that are struggling. It is our job to teach those students struggling, whether they are first gen or not, about those resources and how they can improve their college experience.
Moral of the story here is this, do not treat someone different just because their parents did not attend college and do not assume they aren't just as driven as someone else. First gen students are important and we should support them in any way we can.