Recommendation 1: Merrimack College should improve the Generation Merrimack program in the students first year in Merrimack College to foster career enhancement and inspire students.
Based on the findings of this research from the interviews that were conducted involving students and campus director as well as the information received from the literature review I recommend that Merrimack College first concentrate on establishing career development. This would pertain helping First Generation College students to prepare themselves for future jobs. A good number of the students who were interviewed stated that their parents did not receive advices from their parents with some stating that their parents did not go to college and do not understand what goes on in college. Students at Merrimack college should, therefore take initiative by getting guidance offered by the Program Director who took me through the challenges that she went through while in her freshman year, thus creating the Generation Merrimack program. This is reinforced by Luceford journal article titled When First-Generation Students Go to Graduate School, which is also an account of the challenges that he went through while pursuing graduate education. Moreover, Merrimack College can also borrow a leaf from the study by Olive (2008), which centered on first-generation college students, particularly the individuals whose parents have not attended college, but who have a negative influence on their children who strive to obtain a higher degree. Olive (2008) study concludes that there are specific factors contributing to the students motivation, including the effectiveness of academic programming, identity of self-efficacy, desire for approval and advanced socio-economic status, as well as the necessity to contribute to the well-being of others. In the studies by Jenkins, Belanger, Londono, Connally, and Duron (2013), the attention has been paid to the analysis of sophisticated cross-socioeconomic cultural transitions into college life. The study also reported that first-generation students experienced less social support from friends and family, and, as a result, they have single-event traumatic stress, more depression, and less life satisfaction as compared to continuing generation students.
The issue of poor guidance is also supported by a study conducted by Stebleton, Soria, and Huesman (2014) that demonstrated that lack of motivation and disapproval from parents are not among the most important issues, which make first-generation students face difficulties while entering an educational establishment. Stebleton, Soria, and Huesman (2014) place an emphasis on students sense of belonging, use of mental health, and mental health status as compared to continuing generation students. The authors have reported that first-generation students are more likely to introduce lower degrees of belonging, which are followed by higher levels of stress and depression, as well as lower use of services determined for academic learning and development.
The issue of poor guidance is also echoed by the Program Director who stated that although her parents were supportive, they did not guide her in various ways. According to her, when she first joined college, she did not know anything, and her parents could not help her. They were supportive and proud of her, but they were not in a position to answer any questions for her.
Therefore, instituting a career development as well as capacity for mentoring and inspiring students would go a long way in helping students who come from backgrounds where their parents do not have college education or those whose parents have gone to college, but are busy or do not find it necessary to guide or offer social support to their First Generation sons and daughters.
Recommendation 2: Generation Merrimack should institute a department where students who face parental or family interference can report and have the parents or family talked to so as to eliminate such distractions that have detrimental effect on students performance.
When participants were asked about the challenges they faced and which could have a negative impact of their education performance and career development, parental interference was among the issues that topped the list. To this end, Merrimack College should focus on expanding its Generation Merrimack to encompass a department, which can aid in advising the students and parents who have this concern. This is supported by the study conducted by McCarron and Inkelas (2006), which centered on identifying the gap between attainment and educational aspiration, along with the role of parental involvement affecting first-generation students perceptions. Additionally, the authors have argued, the issue of family income or SES is a main factor related to the concept of cultural and social capital for first generation students (p. 535). Agneriss, a participant in the interview I conducted, experience supported this claim. According to her, the toughest challenge she ever went through during her first year in college was finances. Her father abruptly stopped paying her college fees and was forced to find a way of meeting the financial obligation.
Another participant by the name Ashley also explained the challenges she experienced this past semester being new to the college. Unlike Agneris, she is facing a different type of family interference in that her family is either overly concerned about her welfare in college or love her so much. She is always distracted from her academic work since her family members always go to school and stay with her for long hours despite the fact that her course is time intensive; she has to attend five classes. Moreover, she has to go to her parental hometown to receive her medications and attend medical appointments. She therefore says that she finds it hard to leave school, skip classes, and go home for her medical appointments. Another student also going by the name Ashley also faces parental interference since she has a brother who is a transgender. Her family finds it abnormal and since she is the only one who understands her brother, but cannot offer him the moral support he desperately needs because of her classes she gets stressed to the core. As if this is not enough, her brother moved to a far place and this also stressed her deeply.
Despite the fact that all the above students were in one way or another assisted by the Generation Merrimack program, their parents were not, and it would have been better of all the involved parties came together and addressed the issue. This would not only benefit the current student but would also be beneficial to future First Generation students since such parents would recognize the mistakes they are doing and avoid repeating them in their younger children. Besides, this approach would also model the First Generation students going through parental interference to be good second generation parents. To summarize it, Merrimack College should establish this department as it will bring in long term benefits to the current and future First Generation students.
Recommendation 3: Merrimack College should include a strategy that will help First Generation students momentarily, in the short span they will be in college, to cut links with their high school mentality and peers and family or make such a bold stronger, thus making transition to college easier.
In the current state, the affairs of Generation Merrimack do not possess a way of enabling First Generation students at Merrimack College to shun their high school mentality and forget their high school peers and family members, put academic work first, or enable a student to have a healthy relationship with his or her high school peers and family members in a manner that will help them achieve their set goals. High school mentality and peers can have a detriment effect on a First Generation student. This claim is supported by Brittney, a participant that I interviewed, who stated that the most difficult thing she encountered in her first year in Merrimack College was transitioning and leaving her high school friends behind because she hails from a really small town and only graduated in a class of 64 students, and she had been with all of them since kindergarten. So, the bold that she had with her former high school peers was very strong because they had been in her life every single day for many years. The detachment from her peers affected her psychologically. Besides, she is an introvert, and, therefore found it really hard to put herself out there right away make immediate friends right away. The introvert factor made her high school memory and peers to linger for a long time, hence getting stressed and having a hard first year in college.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Hannah who stated that she had difficulties transitioning from high school to college. The thought of stepping into a totally new environment made her really nervous since she did not know what she was expecting, especially getting accepted into the honors program. On the part of high school mentality, this recommendation gets its support from Brianna S, an interviewee, who explained her challenge with the scheduling difference between high school and college. In her first year in Merrimack, Brianna S describes that the most difficult thing was to realize the scheduling difference. Going from high school, there is that set schedule of go...
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