Christopher J. Smith


The purpose of this study was to better understandthe experiences of first-generation non-traditional students in academia. First-generation students are the first ones in their immediate family to attend college. Non-traditional students usually are students over the age of 25 years old who have financial independence and possibly have dependents to take care of. There has been previous research done on the experiences of first-generation traditional students, but there have not been any studies done on first-generation non-traditional students. This qualitative study targeted to add more data to the higher education field by interviewing five first-generation non-traditional students who have already received their bachelor’s degree to discuss their lived experiences in academia. The findings of this study answered the following two research questions: 1). What barriers, if any, did first-generation non-traditional students encounter during their college experience? 2). How did first-generation non-traditional students navigate through their college journey? Two significant themes surfaced throughout this study, which included: 1). Experiences of being afraid to ask for help as a first-generation non-traditional student and 2). Experiences of financial and social challenges. In time, the findings from this study can bring more awareness to the struggles that first-generation non-traditional students face returning to college and give the higher education administrators the research they need to make each campus more welcoming for this population of students going forward.