Family First: The Pressures of a Pioneer

‘Do first-in-family university students feel less optimistic about their capabilities?’

As the first in my family to attend university I felt many conflicting emotions- enthusiasm, slight terror and an overwhelming pressure to succeed. Being the family ‘pioneer’ so to speak, came with far greater expectations than I had first envisioned, both from myself and others.  I have often felt as if my best efforts were sub-par, despite receiving largely positive results. Was this because I had no role model to follow? Am I more self critical than those with parents or siblings paving the way?  Questions such as these will guide my research, as I attempt to determine the impact of family on self confidence.

Untitled 2

(Source: First in Family. Image by Unknown.)

My personal experiences have led me to question whether other first-in-family (FiF) students, here meaning the first in their immediate family, feel less confident in their capabilities than their counterparts. To conduct my research, I plan to use a survey method, and will ask questions about the family’s educational history, student’s levels of optimism in terms of their abilities and accomplishments, and how they feel their family has influenced their choice to attend university. The survey will be a combination of quantitative data, to determine any trends, and qualitative data. The inclusion of qualitative data will assist in determining why FiF and non-FiF students feel the way they do, and will help to explain any data patterns.

I am not alone in my curiosity; to strengthen my research I have identified a number of background sources. A notable report comes from the ‘National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’, which explores the experiences of FiF students at university, to determine whether they would benefit from additional support. The paper studies the factors that influence FiF students’ decisions to enrol, how they experience university, and the impact this has on self-confidence and identity (National Centre for Student Equity 2017). Furthermore, I have recently discovered a University of Wollongong page dedicated to FiF students, and will include a question in the survey to determine how accessible this information is to relevant students (Unispeak 2014).

Although I am deeply passionate about this project, I have taken into consideration the ethical aspects of my research. Studies have shown that FiF students often come from minority or low-income backgrounds, and in order to respect the experiences of my peers I will carefully select my language and delivery. All care will be taken to not offend participants, who will contribute on an optional basis and be treated with gratitude throughout my research.

I have always thought of myself as innately self-critical, but as I begin researching I’ve begun to question; am I simply a product of my experience?


First in Family (2016). Melinda’s Story. (Online) Available at: <;

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (2017). Closing the Gap Between Equity Policy, Research and Practice. (Online) Available at: <;

UniSpeak (2014). Will You be the First in Your Family to go to Uni? (Online) Available at: <;


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s