First Gen & Working Class Students

Let’s talk about money. Obtaining a Ph.D. is a formidable accomplishment for anyone on this journey, but it would be disingenuous to ignore the class privilege and cultural capital that grants some students an advantage over others. It’s time to get real. Most of us have scholarly interests in improving the educational opportunities of working-class and impoverished students. But, what happens when these same students are your classmates, students, and work colleagues? As a working class student, how do you manage competing expectations of your time and resources? How does low-income status compound other marginalized identities related to ethnicity, racialization, religion, sex, and gender? These are just some of the tensions that arise from class politics in the academy.


You are not alone. Karra Shimabukuro has created an amazing collaborative wikispace called How to Prep for Grad School While Poor. There are pages that address the application process, childcare, conference attendance, cultural capital, navigating awkward moments, and more.

Hearing the stories of other first-generation college and doctoral graduates is informative. Here is a January 2018 interview with David Hernández, professor of Latinx Studies at Mount Holyoke College and a first-gen college student. He describes his journey before and after the Ph.D. and the role that economic class has played throughout.


Karra Shimabukuro also has created a wikispace, Dear Bob The Graduate Advisor, with resources for faculty members who teach and advise first-generation students. In particular, there is a Resources and Information page with links to articles and books on the subject.