Book by Kathleen Cushman
Review by Angela Sexton
Academic Advisor, College of Applied Studies
Florida State University Panama City

First in the Family provides an insightful understanding of the obstacles facing first generation college students through personal stories of first generation students. The stories describe the student’s college journeys and offers advice and guidance in their own words.  Throughout the stories, first generation students are encouraged to believe that they can go to college and have the right to do so. The student is encouraged to seek out those who will support their goals, and help guide them through the educational process. Even though a lot of the stories repeat the same message, there are enough differences so that advisors can be more in tune to the plight of the first generation student.

The book discusses ways to pick a college, how to pay for college, how to write college essays, and many other issues first generation students cannot get answered by asking others in their families.  First generation students share their experiences in finding answers and solutions to their unique issues.  The personal stories of those who were first generation college students in their families offer encouragement and motivation for others in the same situation.

I believe advisors can use this as a refresher guide to help first generation students, but it is really tailored to being a hand-out resource for high school students in ninth and tenth grade. There is some college terminology such as Pell Grants, PhD. Master’s degree and B.A. in the book that were not explained. The useful resources listed at the conclusion of the book were somewhat limited.

The planning checklists at the end of the book could be a great resource for advisors in helping the student plan their college years.  This book has short chapters and is easy to read.  I would recommend this book to advisors as a refresher guide in working with students who are typically labeled as “not college-bound.”  For those looking for in-depth guidance on advising first generation students, the reader would need do look for additional resources.  This would be an excellent resource to share with fist and second year high school students who will be the first in their family to attend college.  It will allow the student to read about other first generation students and how they were able to make their college dreams a reality.

First in the Family: Advice About College from First-Generation Students: Your High School Years. (2005) Book by Kathleen Cushman. Review by Angela Sexton. Next Generation Press. 88 pp., $8.95, (paperback), ISBN # 0-9762706-3-3

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