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Meet first-generation student Haley Turner, recent graduate of the Bachelor of Public Health (BPH) program from the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health (CPH) and current student in the Master of Health Administration (MHA) program. 

Haley is from the small Eastern Kentucky town of Jackson. Growing up and presently, Haley’s parents continue to be major influences in her life.  

“While neither of my parents went to college, they always supported me above and beyond through everything I have done,” says Haley. “They worked incredibly hard to ensure that I never went without anything that I needed in my life.”  

From an early age, Haley’s parents wanted her to be the absolute best and never settle for less. 

“My parents always said they wanted my brother and I to be more successful and able to provide even more for our own families one day,” says Haley. “I knew college was right for me and the best way for me to accomplish the things I always wanted to. I am beyond grateful for both my mom and dad and will never be able to thank them enough for all that they have done.” 

Haley shares her first-generation experience and provides advice to overcome shared challenges. 

What are some common challenges that first-generation students experience? 

Being a first-generation, the biggest challenge is all the unknown. 

“Coming into college, while I knew it would be quite the step up from high school, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself in to. While I feel my high school done an adequate job in making sure I had the knowledge, there was no preparation for how the day-to-day would go. It is extremely difficult to go outside your comfort zone, but even more so when you realize how underprepared you were for what you are dealing with now. Embracing the unknown and trusting that you will be better for it on the other side is what I found to be the key to conquering it.  

What are some special traits or unique abilities that first-generation students bring? 

First-generation students bring a unique perspective and way of thinking to whatever they may be doing.

“I feel that most first-generation students have a profound respect for hard work and desire to do whatever is necessary to achieve a goal. Many first-generation students have experienced things that are unique to them which attributes to their way of problem solving and thought processes.” 

What is your best advice for prospective first-generation students as they consider where to attend college?  

Never give up.  

“From my own personal experience, I came in my first semester and did not perform as well as I had hoped for and as poorly from an academic perspective than ever before. While this was extremely discouraging and would have been extremely easy for me to give up there, I dug deep and knew that this was right for me, I just had to find out how. I did some digging and changed my major to Public Health and never looked back.  

Don’t let adversity make you feel like you cannot be successful, take it as it comes, reach out to resources on campus and figure out how you fit in. Being a first-generation student is a lot to be proud of and you didn’t get here for nothing. The University of Kentucky is a wonderful place to be for such an accomplishment!” 

What resources would you recommend for first-generation students at UK? 

There are plenty of resources available to first-generation students on campus. 

“A couple of specific ones I recommend would be the Stuckert Career Center and First-Generation Student Services. The career center helped me tremendously with developing a resume as well as aiding in deciding where to go next when I wanted to change my major.

The First-Gen student services have tons of activities and ways to meet other first-gen students the first couple weeks of classes which can help a lot with making sure you do not feel alone in this experience as well as help in many other ways to ensure you have a smooth transition.”