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Resources for First-Generation College Students

Walter Fuller

About the Author

- Hi future bears! My name is Walter Fuller, and I am the Assistant Director of Student Success here at Mercer. As a Mercer grad and a first-generation college student, I work to provide resources and guidance for all Mercer students to succeed.

We understand that first-generation college students may experience unique challenges when navigating the journey through college admission, enrollment, and graduation, and at Mercer, we are here to help. Programs such as Mercer Firsts offer a support network designed for first-generation college students.

Additionally, Mercer’s Office for Student Success creates spaces where students can come together and support each other both academically and socially, not only in their first year but throughout their entire college journey.




Mercer Student
Callie Lowery, Biology ’26

My driving force in going to college was the stability that a college education provides. I know that if I complete at least a bachelor’s degree, I will be able to provide for myself and possibly my own family in the future.

Oddly enough, college was not really discussed growing up, which made me feel like my options were limited. Being a first-generation student and coming from a rural area, I did not even think I was going to go to college—much less to a university like Mercer—until the beginning of my senior year. However, since beginning the college process, my family and I have realized how important the privilege of being able to go to college is. College means security and freedom to pursue any realm of study I want and to have a bright future for my family and me.

At Mercer, I sometimes feel like I am behind compared to my fellow students because it is very difficult to navigate the uncharted waters of college (moving away from home, making new friends, creating study schedules, etc.). However, Mercer Firsts and Opportunity Scholars have not only helped me establish a community with other students facing similar challenges, but they have helped answer questions that I have about college, life, or anything else.

Through these programs, I have been paired with a peer mentor who understands life as a student, and a faculty mentor who helps me plan my academics. Joining other organizations on campus, such as Spanish Club and MerServe, helps me connect with other students, which broadens my knowledge of the world. Being involved on campus has been a great way to make friends and establish community.

My biggest accomplishment is making it to college and completing my first year. I am proud of myself for acclimating to campus and building a community with the students, professors, and staff because I never thought this was possible for me to achieve.



Lynne Smith, Mathematics ’26

I am a person who is not fond of change. I hate the idea of being away from home, not knowing anyone around me, and overall, just feeling misplaced. Being at Mercer, however, has helped me overcome this fear. Although it was not something that was easily done, the overwhelming support from the Mercer community has made it so much easier. My goal has always been to make my parents proud. They worked tirelessly for me to have the privilege of going to college. Making sure I had the resources to accomplish this was the main factor in choosing where I went to school. This is how I discovered Mercer and the helpful programs that are accomplishing this goal.

As a first-generation student, I barely had any guidance going into my first year of college. I grew up in a small town and attended a high school with very limited resources. This was a major adjustment in my first few weeks of college classes. I felt so out of place and intimidated by my classmates’ knowledge. I felt that the education I came in with would not amount to what I would need to succeed. To add to the stress of grades, I was also overwhelmed by homesickness and feared I would not make friends. I felt completely at a loss and deeply regretted leaving home.

Thankfully, I had the pleasure of being in Opportunity Scholars. Opportunity Scholars is a program at Mercer dedicated to providing students with assistance toward completing their post-secondary education. Through this program, I met my ambassador, who had a significant impact on my college life. He was able to guide me through the struggles of making friends and finding resources to help me with my classes. His friendship and guidance were a blessing to have, as I had no clue what I was doing. I also had the assistance of a mentor through Mercer Firsts. She became a major support line for me, and she still is to this day. She has helped me through problems in my academic and personal life. The one thing that Mercer has over any other school I have seen is their ability to give you the feeling of having a home away from home.

Mercer has so many clubs and programs, just like Opportunity Scholars and Mercer Firsts. These programs (and many others) help make college life easier and give you many opportunities to expand your knowledge. The other organizations I have joined include Math Club, Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholars, Mercer Pre-Med, and Wesley Ministry, which have made me feel more included and accepted. Through this, I have become much more involved on campus than I ever thought possible.

I know how uneasy you can feel about going to college. It is different for everyone, and no one is ever fully prepared. All I can say is that I was able to complete my first year as well as I did, thanks to the people here at Mercer. I think that anyone who comes here can find a place in which they feel they belong. You can accomplish whatever you set your mind to because you will have the help of the Mercer community every step of the way.