Below is the second article of the three-part series “First Generation Students: Experiences and Advice.” This series highlights first-generation students’ journeys to graduate school, their experiences at Salus, and any advice they have for other first-generation students looking to continue their studies at the graduate level. These students hail from Memphis, California, Puerto Rico, and many other parts of the map. When asked how being a first-generation student has impacted them and how Salus has helped them, the students interviewed responded as follows: 

How does being a first-generation student impact you?
  • Student Fernando Venegas shown in black button up shirt with blurred greenery in the background.Being a first-gen student can be very tough at times, mainly because your parents don't really know exactly what's going on and, for the most part, they don't have a lot of resources to give you. You really have to learn to be resourceful and to be able to find some mentors.
  • It is really nice to be supported by the faculty at Salus because I don't necessarily have that guidance from people in my family. Everyone's really supportive here, and it's really helped a lot with the whole process.
  • It's impacted me in many different ways. I think during the application process, it was a little bit difficult because I didn't really have a parent or a family member to turn to when I had questions. But in a positive way, it has shown me that although they may not be able to relate to some of my experiences in college or graduate school, their support is still unconditional.
  • I believe being a first-generation student has really impacted me. The main reason being that my family had no idea what my options or opportunities were. We had no idea what the application process was like or what I needed to do in order to get accepted. I know a lot of my classmates had family or friends that were in the field so they got to step into shadowing or job opportunities that I had to go the extra mile to get.
  • It's really an honor. I think it's something that I'm really lucky that I get to do, I'm really blessed that I even get to be here, and I feel it helps me serve as an inspiration to other first-generation students that are maybe scared to become something like a doctor.
  • Student Madison Matello shown in black scrubs in front of window.I think that being a first-generation college student has made me get more creative with where I find support. It is hard for my parents, not having the opportunity to go to college, to understand what I was going through in undergrad. Now that I'm in graduate school, it's even harder for them to relate. So it's definitely taught me how to reach out to other people, and also how to figure things out on my own. For example, I couldn't really get my parents help with my Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and I had to navigate that journey with a little less help than other people might have had.
  • I think being a first-generation student impacted me positively. Being Egyptian American and coming from a diverse background has definitely given me perspective. I think it allowed me to see more of the struggle and hardship that goes into applying to and paying for school. It really made me appreciate what a true education meant and what it takes to achieve that education both financially and academically. 
  • When you're a first-generation student, you really enter a world that you and your family are just not familiar with. So from early on, you have to be the captain of your own ship. And as any captain, you really need the right crew to make things successful for you and to be able to reach your final destination. And when I mean crew, I mean just having that mentor or career counselor. When you get that type of support and you're able to find the right crew, then that's how you're able to reach your end goal.
  • Student Elizabeth Lyter shown in blue shirt with floral design and white cardigan and with blurred greenery in background.It's definitely been a challenge considering that no one in my immediate family has done it before. I didn't know what I was doing half the time, but through a lot of Google searches and understanding mentors, I got it situated. I was blessed to have a good support system as well, so that helped me keep a level head.
  • It's very fun because you're always learning. I didn’t know a lot of things and as I went, I learned what I had to do. I didn’t even know that you had to go to undergrad before grad school when I started college and that seems like such a basic little thing. It's just learning as you go.
  • Well, as a first-generation college student, I always felt confused and felt doubtful because I didn't know if I was taking the proper steps. So transitioning into a higher level of education was always hard for me because I didn't know if I was in the loop or prepared to actually complete the next level of education.
  • I think it showed me a lot that education is an opportunity and that I shouldn't take it for granted. It has really made me appreciate the gift of education. It showed me that I should enjoy every moment of it.
  • It's impacted me a lot. My parents were both disabled very early in my life, so I wasn't really immersed in a lot of different career paths. It took a lot of searching and advocating for myself to figure out what I wanted to do.
  • Student Angela Rios show in black turtle neck and cream sweater in front of window.It makes me happy, and it makes me proud. Getting my master's degree and my undergraduate degree means I'll have some of those awesome opportunities that not only my parents want me to have, but maybe that they didn't have themselves. It's a big motivator for me in school. It makes me want to thrive more and do the best that I can.
  • Being a first-generation student definitely impacts me in a lot of different ways. It's definitely tough in the beginning because you have to do a lot more research since you don't have that much support from your immediate family. Being able to reach out to others is definitely a big thing that you have to do as a first-generation student. I was able to tackle that and gain mentors and reach out to different students, who helped me along the way.
  • I had to navigate a lot of the educational process on my own. I couldn't really go to my parents because they had no experience here and I just had to figure out what works best for me. â€‹

How has Salus helped you in this journey?
  • Salus has many great resources, the biggest of which for me was the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). Incoming students usually start in the fall but the school puts on a Summer Enrichment Program which allows for students to get introduced into Salus’ rigorous scheduling, learn studying skills, and get some mentors.
  • Student Candace Nelson shown in blue scrubs with blurred greenery in the background.Everyone at Salus that I've encountered wants to be there for you and wants you to succeed, and that's just been really helpful. If you need someone, you can make an appointment with your advisor, for example. There are just so many opportunities to be supported if you need it. 
  • I think Salus has helped me most in this process by acknowledging that I'm a first-generation student, and giving me the resources to make the transition from undergrad to now pretty seamless.
  • Salus was very helpful in this journey. The admissions team was always happy to answer any questions I had. Salus offered an optometry learning experience in which it answered any questions I had about the field and if it was the right career for me. This really solidified my choice to join Salus.
  • I really liked how Salus never makes you feel like you're on your own. I remember in the application process, there were a lot of other first-generation students that I knew Salus was interviewing, and it made me feel like I had a chance. It made me feel like they weren't just looking for someone coming from a family of doctors or people who have parents with master's degrees. I really had the opportunity with Salus to pave my own path, and I love that.
  • Student Bridgid Harkin shown in grey sweater seated in a computer lab.Salus has helped me in this journey because it is such a small close-knit school and although I didn't really have the experiences that other people have had to get here, Salus helped me a lot on that path.
  • I think that Salus has been a huge help just by how welcoming and supportive it has  been. It’s extremely clear with everything that needs to happen. Everyone and every department is so willing to talk to you and be helpful. They have really helped to fill in the gaps where it is hard to get support from parents and family members. Salus has been very quick to step in and help me navigate a lot of things.
  • Actually, one of the reasons I chose Salus was because of its diversity. I felt like I wasn't going to be an outsider here in Pennsylvania, and as well as on campus. I saw that they had a large population of many different ethnic backgrounds, many different types of students, and many different international students. Knowing other people will connect to my story and my first-generation experiences made me very comfortable to choose Salus. 
  • I feel that it has really helped me a lot and in ways I didn't really expect. Salus offers small classes so you really get to be involved with the faculty and with your classmates. And it offers all the necessary tools that you need in order to be successful, including mentorship. Everybody here wants to see you succeed. It's not about the competition, but just being able to accomplish your end goal.
  • Salus has been so good at treating everyone equally. Even though I don't come from a medical background and I have no former experience, they just start everyone at ground zero. The University is so welcoming to everyone.
  • Student Sofiya Dorokhin shown in white sweater in Salus classroom.I absolutely love the admissions team of Salus. Any question I had, I knew that they would be more than happy to answer. They were very patient with me and they answered multiple questions at a time, even things not concerning Salus directly. Where can I stay? What do I do in Philadelphia? I've never been in the city before, how do I get to school? I had all of these questions and they helped me through all of them.
  • Well, I had the opportunity of attending the Summer Enrichment Program, which is a five-week hybrid program that introduces sellers applicants to the rigorous coursework of Salus. I was able to gain mentorship and guidance that made me feel more prepared to enter into Salus optometry school.
  • Student Kierra Wells shown in blue shirt with a Salus building and greenery blurred in backgroundSalus has just made me feel more confident in being a first-gen student and helped me through the process in understanding all the new things that my family before me haven't necessarily gone through.
  • The faculty are really, really involved, helpful, and supportive. The rigor of the physician assistant program is a lot, but having faculty like that makes it easier to keep up with the schoolwork and to also feel like you're in an environment where you're supported, which is really important.
  • Salus has helped me during my journey here in the Post-bacc program. I've already spoken with many staff, students, faculty, and everybody is always here to help out. Especially in the Post-bacc program, we're actually given mentors along our journey. We also get to visit different clinics and jump into the field, so it's definitely been helpful and I appreciate all the resources that Salus has already given to me.
  • Salus helped a lot actually. It had seminars and contacts for me to reach out to whenever I had any questions, and they promptly responded to everything I asked about.