UTEP’s first-generation students weigh in with their experiences

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Jasmin Campoya

(From left to right) Juan Roman and Raymond Acevedo are both sophomores at UTEP and are both first-generation students.

Kristen Scheaffer, Contributor

As students begin their classes this semester, for many this is a huge step. For some, it is their first time at college and for others, they are the first in their immediate family to pursue college.  

According to University Communications, 48.4 percent of incoming UTEP students between Jan. 1 through Aug. 16, 2020 considered themselves first-generation students. UTEP will celebrate these students in early November with specific events to make them feel at home. 

According to Inside Higher Ed, the top four reasons first-generation students choose their colleges according to affordability, the financial aid package, proximity to home so they can be near family and commute. 

According to University Communications, first-generation students are more likely to come from a low-income background and may lack familial support. That is not the case for everyone. 

“My family is very proud of me for going to college and happy for me,” said UTEP sophomore Donovan Garza. “They’re glad that I’m pursuing a goal and a big step in my life.” 

The top three ways that students measure success, according to a survey done by Inside Higher Ed,, were good grades, graduation and finding a job within their desired field. UTEP students defined what being first generation meant for them. 

“I’m paving a path for the next generation of my family, so that they can also be successful and have an example to look up to,” said UTEP freshman Matteo Josephs. 

Sophomores Juan Roman and Raymond Acevedo shared a similar sentiment. Roman said that he wanted to set a foundation for future generations to come.  

Some students feel the pressure of being the first. Junior Kimberly Vazquez expressed how it is not easy since learning she is going to be the first to receive a bachelor’s degree. Acevedo said that it can be weight on someone’s shoulders. 

“It’s a whole new experience being in college; it’s nothing like high school and I just can’t wait to see what the future holds,” said freshman Reid Armstrong. 

Only 9 percent have strongly considered dropping out or transferring compared to 51 percent that never gave it a thought, according to Inside Higher Ed,.  

UTEP graduate student Brenda De La Rosa said first generation students are in this together. 

“Don’t really be nervous about failure, or what you can and cannot do. Just do it,” said Josephs.

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  • Michelle Lopez is a first-generation student and a freshman at UTEP.

  • Reid Armstrong is a first-generation student and a freshman at UTEP.

  • Matteo Josephs is a first-generation student and a freshman at UTEP.

  • Donovan Garza is a first-generation student and a sophomore at UTEP.

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Kristen Scheaffer is a contributor and can be reached at [email protected]