Why First-Generation College Students Choose Marian University

June 8, 2021

A student, the first in her family to attend college, studies at Marian University.

First-generation college students are special for every family who has one. Becoming the first member of your family to earn a college degree is a major accomplishment. It marks a milestone of achievement and serves as inspiration for other family members to follow in their footsteps.

Marian University takes extra steps to support first-generation college students. The university offers academic services that help students navigate financial aid, class schedules, housing, choose a major, network with peers, and develop strong study skills.

Because first-generation college students do not have family members who have been through the college admission process, Marian University does more than tell students what to do. They provide guidance that walks students through every important step of the process. Many of these services are offered through the university’s Excel program.

“Our goal is to help you find success as you begin your college career at Marian,” Sue Fuerbringer, director and academic advisor in the program, said in a video to students. “Excel is a one-year support program that provides guidance through regular meetings and gives us a chance to review courses with you and offer study skills, academic support resources, and more.”

Who Is A First-Generation College Student?

It seems like a clear-cut issue, but two primary definitions exist for first-generation college students.

Some count first-generation college students as having parents with no postsecondary degree. According to the Center For First Generation Student Success, these students make up about 24% of all college students. Another definition for a first-generation college student – one that is more typically used – is a student with parents who have not earned a bachelor’s degree.

By the second definition, first-generation college students make up 56% of all undergraduate students. Of those, 28% were 30 years old or older. Other data from the center’s report include the following.

  • 40% attend school full-time
  • 30% have dependents
  • 5% are veterans
  • 60% are women

The importance of online education is clear when looking at these numbers. Many adult learners can only attend full-time through online programs allowing them to keep their current job and schedule school around professional and personal responsibilities.

How Marian University Supports First-Generation College Students

Marian University’s student support includes programs designed specifically with first-generation college students in mind. Following are areas where Marian excels at offering students the help they need to for a successful college experience.

Application Process

Admission counselors will walk you through filling out an application either online or on paper. The application process is free. Marian is also testing an optional school that does not require applicants to take the ACT or SAT to qualify for admission.

Financial Aid

All the paperwork and steps involved in getting financial aid can seem daunting, but Marian University advisors will walk you through every step along the way. That includes filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a necessary step to determine the amount of federal grant and loan money you are eligible to receive.

The process for federal aid starts by creating a FAFSA account. Marian advisors will guide you through the process and provide Marian’s school code (003861), which students list on their FAFSA application, and how to collect the appropriate financial information. Advisors can also direct you to potential scholarships and grants you may qualify to receive.

Academic Advisors

Support does not stop once you enroll. Academic advisors will work with you throughout your time at Marian University. Working together, your advisor will help you develop a four-year course plan and measure academic success each semester.

Choosing a Major

What will you major in? This is the main question students face, but not all have an answer when they first enter school. Teri Durkin, an academic advisor who works with students in the Marian program, said that this is not a problem. “Don’t worry, if you’re still exploring and haven’t decided on a specific major yet, that’s absolutely something we can help with,” she said.

About 25% of all undergraduates at Marian University have an undeclared major, so it’s a common situation, not a cause for concern. An advisor will work specifically to help you choose a major in a career field you will love. Once you choose a major, you’ll have opportunities for internships to help you gain real work experience.

The Excel Program

Besides providing academic advisors for incoming students, the Marian University Excel program also offers a Summer Bridge program. Summer Bridge is an on-campus, pre-orientation program to acclimate incoming students to life on campus.

Marian offers every student comprehensive support services, including study groups directed by staff and student leaders, individual tutors, assistance with study skills, and support for using test-to-voice technology. The Excel program also provides individualized meetings between the student and advisor at regular intervals (every three weeks) to aid in academic progress and support.

CASE and the Learning and Writing Center

The University also provides information and assistance to students through the Center for Academic Support & Excellence (CASE) Office and the Learning and Writing Center. CASE offers students free services geared toward student development, academic success, and promoting campus partnerships and networking.

The Learning and Writing Center is a great place to find free tutoring in any subject area, including nursing, chemistry, writing, and math. The center hosts small group study sessions as well as one-on-one tutoring if needed.

Housing, Clubs, and Sports

A resident advisor in student housing also provides support, as do fellow students. Student housing offers students the chance to develop strong study and prioritization habits. Marian University also encourages students to spend time with other students and build their resumes by joining clubs and organizations and playing sports.

Marian University supports first-generation college students because they are such an important part of the college student population. By helping this student cohort achieve success, the university helps them not only earn a degree but set a standard for educational attainment for others to follow.