DIY/DEI: Supporting First-Generation College Students

A collage of book covers and images with the DIY/DEI logo

Advocates and allies are essential to promoting a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in higher education and beyond. For many, there is a new awareness of issues associated with DEI and a growing desire to learn and engage. To support your efforts, the NC State University Libraries and the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity have created a curated list of resources to inform your inquiry, introspection, and engagement with this topic. Engaging with these resources will provide you with an opportunity to explore DEI and develop your narrative and understanding.

This month's featured topic
This issue of DIY/DEI focuses on the experiences of first-generation college students. Though there are many definitions, a first-generation college student can be any student whose parents did not complete a four-year college degree. These students are often the first in their families to attend four-year institutions and can face many challenges due to this fact. This list showcases books, articles, videos, and other resources that tell the stories of first-generation students and celebrate their resilience and accomplishments.

This list has been curated by Kelly Luna and Liliana Rivas.

Past DIY/DEI resource lists can be found here. To suggest a future topic for DIY/DEI, please send your topic idea to


book cover image

The Chosen One: A First-Generation Ivy League Odyssey. Echo Brown, 2022. Book

A memoir by Echo Brown in which she details her struggles as a Black first-generation college student at Dartmouth College. Brown must accept herself as the chosen one and be able to heal from her past in order to understand her new future.

The Imposter Cure: How to stop feeling like a fraud and escape the mind-trap of imposter syndrome. Dr. Jessamy Hibbard, 2019. Book.

A self-guided book on imposter syndrome and how to navigate through it in one’s personal and professional lives.

Spread Your Wings and FLI: How to Effectively Navigate College as a First-Generation, Low-Income Student. Jessica Ilayalith Mora, 2021. Ebook.

This book focuses on the empowerment of being a first-generation college student, as well as the resources that are available to them in their undergraduate years. The author has included many tips and strategies from her experience that have made her successful.

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? Dr. Julie Smith, 2022. Book.

Written by a clinical psychologist, this book focuses on coping strategies, resilience, and why taking care of your mental health is important. It also guides readers to better understand themselves and keep themselves accountable.

Dealing with This Thing Called College: Stories to Help You Succeed in Undergrad. Christopher Sumlin, 2018. Book.

The author shares twelve stories from his undergrad years in which he made multiple mistakes but also learned valuable lessons. Like many first generation college students, he felt unprepared. In this book, he takes an in-depth look at his experiences dealing with college.




What people get wrong about first-generation college students,” Itzel Luna.

College students from around the United States talk about barriers they have encountered, such as doubts, mental health struggles, and academic challenges. 


Why am I here?’ That’s the feeling many Latino students struggle with in higher education,” Renata Kaminski.

One challenge that many first-generation college students face is imposter syndrome, which can affect academic performance. The author presents Latina perspectives on how students’ identities can make them feel guilty in unfamiliar environments. 


Side Doors And Unspoken Rules Are Key To Success, And Mentors Can Help First-Gen Students Find Them,” Marvin Krislov.

This article highlights the importance of mentorship in first-generation college student success. Traditional students are more likely to be aware of the unspoken rules to academic and professional success. These rules are often difficult for first-generation students to understand or even be aware of without support.



Teenager Therapy: “Being a First Gen Student” (32:16)

Teenager Therapy discusses why leaving for college can be emotional and how it can be a bittersweet moment to think about. It is a new chapter of their lives and they’re thinking of what can change in the next few years especially when it comes to leaving family.

REeducate: “First Generation College Student Struggles” (64:00)

Two friends talk about their college experience and how no one in their families truly understood what being a first generation student meant. They had expectations to live up to which caused several struggles in their college journeys.

Beyond the Bell Tower (series)

This is Beyond the Bell Tower, a podcast for students enrolled in the TRIO Programs at NC State. Current students, alumni, and community members share their personal stories to offer support and guidance to TRIO Program students. The episodes focus on all things related to academics, finances, career and personal development, and culture to promote undergraduate and graduate school success relevant to the low-income, first-generation college student experience.



Michelle Obama’s inspiring message to 1st-generation college students (2:23)

The former First Lady is recognized as a first-generation college student. Her inspiring message lets students know that they’re not alone and are capable of anything.

What I have learned as a first-generation college student (4:49)

Lyric Swinton expresses how she had to fight stereotypes while she was in college and how it can be difficult finding a community when feeling out of place.

What Being First Generation College Students Is Really Like (3:00)

Being a first-generation student is not easy. These Latinx students share their experience with the YouTube channel we are mitú, from their application processes to graduation and beyond.


First Generation College Grads Thank Their Immigrant Parents (5:18)

In this video from we are mitú, three Latinx first-generation college graduates express their gratitude to their families for the sacrifices they made to get them to where they are. These grads view their accomplishment as a familial one, demonstrating the relationship between students and their support systems.


LinkedIn Learning

Through free access to the NC State community, LinkedIn Learning offers the following modules on this topic.


Coping with Impostor Syndrome to Build Career Confidence

Emilie Aries, founder and CEO of Bossed Up, breaks down imposter syndrome and explains why people have such feelings regarding their self-worth. Aries explores how to build career confidence while managing this issue.


Managing Burnout

Burnout can occur at any point in one’s life. Melody Wilding teaches how to identify signs of burnout and its different components. She elaborates on how to create a strategy when experiencing burnout and makes suggestions on how to take care of yourself.


Other Resources

“​​I am First: A Poem By A First Generation Student,” Natallie St. Onge

Natallie St. Onge’s poem recounts her experiences as a first-generation college student.


First in the Pack

NC State University’s own portal for first-generation college students. First in the Pack aims to support first-generation college students during their time on campus through sharing information, coordinating programs, and advocating for their strength and resilience. It also provides information for faculty, staff, alumni, and guests to get involved as allies for first-generation students.


Pack Assessment Ambassadors’ Report

In the summer of 2021, the Pack Assessment Ambassadors published a visual report containing their findings about first-generation experiences at NC State, their recommendations for supporting these students, and relevant student resources. Next steps and reflection questions are provided for faculty and staff who are interested in taking action to use these findings in support of student success.