Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

First-Gen Graduate Student and Faculty Spotlights

This page spotlights stories, exeriences, and advice from several first-generation graduate students and faculty in the Department of Psychology.  More information and resources can be found on Rackham's First-Generation Students page and U-M's First-Generation Student Program.

David Brang, Associate Professor of Psychology

My parents didn't go to college so I stumbled my way through every step, and I know it was partly luck that got me through it all. Even when I applied to grad schools I had assumed I would need to take out more loans. It wasn't until I started grad school interviews that I learned I wouldn't have to take on more debt. It's hard to know what you don't know. You need to ask questions and repeatedly test your assumptions to make sure your internal model is right.

Be kind to yourself and suppress feelings that you're an imposter. Many of those around you have had a support network guiding them to where they are now, whereas you've had to find your own way, often while working one or more jobs. Remember that you're doing more with less. You likely have grit and a strong work ethic to have made it this far and those traits will carry you even further. When you feel like you're still missing a piece to the puzzle (for a course or figuring out what's next) go to your professor's office hours to talk about class or to get more general academic advice.

Grow a healthy work/life balance piece by piece, even if it takes time. I only stopped living under sleep deprivation conditions after grad school. I realize now that my internal sense of success was linked to how hard and how much I worked. Instead, I should have spent more time thinking about what things were the important ones worth my time and gotten more sleep so that goals took less time (and usually with better quality results). Along with this, learn how to politely say no.

Briana Scott, PhD Student in the Combined Program in Education & Psychology

Something I learned in my experience is that your main advisor likely won't be able to fulfill all of your mentorship needs. It was really important for me to build a network of people who I knew would be in my corner: professors, research staff, cohort mates, peers, and friends. Having this expectation up front will help you to not get discouraged if your primary advisor doesn't provide all the support you need. Rather, it's like a pie, and your primary advisor is only one piece of that pie, and you will likely feel best supported if you fill the pie with additional people. Folks are generally really kind and are looking for connection.

Kari Sherwood, PhD Student in the Joint Program in Social Work & Psychology

Don't let your own self-doubt be the thing that holds you back from reaching your goals. And don't forget to enjoy the moments during the journey when everything feels surreal. Know that, even with any support you received along the way, YOU got yourself to where you are now.

Victoria Vezaldenos, PhD Student in the Combined Program in Education & Psychology

If you are a first-gen college student like me, I want to remind you that YOU DESERVE TO BE HERE! You have earned your place here and deserve to take up space. Navigating higher education at every stage of the journey is incredibly challenging but you are not alone.  Find a supportive community that can assist you along the way. Remember, you are changing the trajectory of your family for generations to come by simply being here today. We got this!