Stories + Advice

Celebrating First Gen Week with Two Inspirational Talks

Somewhere between 9 and 11% of current Boston College students are the first in their family to attend a four-year university. These students, sometimes referred to as “first gen”, illustrate strength, resilience, and resourcefulness. In celebration of First Generation Week, we are highlighting two high-profile first generation college graduates and the advice they have for current students. Want some inspiration? Check out the videos.

Michelle Obama

First generation graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School; Lawyer, Author, American first lady (2009–17)

Watch Michelle Obama on a panel during which she addresses the first generation students from the class of 2022 at the Reach Higher Initiative Beating the Odds Summit to support first generation college-bound students on June 14, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Standout Advice:

(8:53): “Don’t do this in isolation. Find your community. Find a community for yourself. Whether that’s through sports or it’s a cultural organization or a minority student group. Finding a cohort for your place and starting to build your community is going to be important.”

(30:54): “That’s what you’re learning now: how do you manage your emotional self. That is like learning how to write a paper, too. You don’t just grow up knowing that, and it’s important to understand that understanding your emotional balance and what you need to keep yourself steady is part of this practice when you’re in college…because you’re going to need it later in life.”

Sonia Sotomayor

First generation graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School;
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice

Watch an interview with Justice Sotomayor as she provides advice to Tufts University students about taking advantage of a liberal arts education.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Tufts University

Standout Advice:

(8:00): “This is the place for you to explore things you know nothing about. This is the place for you to learn about the world around you, and not necessarily use that knowledge in a profession, but just to give you a base for you to become–believe it or not–a more interesting person. The more well-rounded you are, the better you are going to perform in your profession regardless of what the profession is.”

(10:18) “You have an opportunity to meet people who live lives differently than you do. Befriend them. Don’t stay clustered in your own background. Open the world to yourself by making friends with people who are different than you are. I certainly think that has helped me enormously in my career.”

julianne-smith
– By Julianne Smith, Associate Director, Career Education

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