Being First Generation Low Income at Dartmouth
Although I've been updating this blog for the better part of a year, I haven't written much on my experience as a first-generation low-income (FGLI) student at Dartmouth, despite the fact that this identity has largely determined how I've experienced and maneuvered Dartmouth thus far.
The summer before my first year, I participated in the month-long FYSEP program with other first-generation students who were also unfamiliar with how college really worked; while this gave me many friends and great experiences, the reality is that most Dartmouth students do not fall into this category. In fact, about half of Dartmouth students do not receive financial aid at all due to lack of necessity. While navigating campus, it becomes very clear that half of the student body is able to pay $80,000+ of tuition per year. In this post, I will provide my personal experience of being FGLI at Dartmouth, and where the pros and cons lie.
For me, many of the difficulties that come from being FGLI are social. People at Dartmouth grow up in many different scenarios; coming from a low-income community just outside of Chicago, interacting with people from competitive private schools and magnet public schools is definitely a learning curve, especially when it comes to hobbies and interests. It can also be difficult when students are from private school clusters and they know each other before coming to Dartmouth – their wealthy upbringing provides a point of commonality. Furthermore, Greek life can sometimes feel like an extension of wealth privilege. That being said, many Greek spaces are incredibly welcoming of First Gen students. In fact, many of my FGLI friends rushed and love their houses! However, these spaces are not always accessible. Many of the cons of being FGLI are difficult to describe; for me, they are just small details and social conventions that I'm not used to dealing with back home.
However, there are also many positives to being FGLI on campus. Perhaps the best is the First Generation Office, a center dedicated to providing resources for First Gen students to thrive. Last winter I was given $300 to buy winter clothing, and more recently they provide financial wellness night classes once a week – they've been great! The First Gen Office offers tons of experiences and events for students to enjoy. The use of these resources has helped me understand classes, jobs, extracurriculars, and research at Dartmouth. The resources provided truly make me feel like I am getting the most out of my time on campus.
Overall, it isn't the easiest to be FGLI on campus – however, the perspectives I've gained from Dartmouth so far have changed my life. Although it's difficult to go from a space with a low wealth concentration to a high one, it is the experience of getting out of my comfort zone that I will cherish at Dartmouth.