First in your family to attend college? Welcome.

As a first-generation college student, you set a course for future generations. Governors State University is proud to share the journey with you, and we are ready to provide you with all the resources you need to navigate college successfully. Learn more about the GSU first-generation experience from one of our current students, Maira Gutierrez, who aspires to become a CPA.

Interview with Maira Gutierrez

What inspired you to pursue higher education?

My parents are from an area of Mexico where there was almost no emphasis on education: my mom didn’t get past high school, and my dad didn’t get past elementary school. I’ve seen the struggles they’ve both had. They came to the U.S. to provide better for me and my five siblings, and education seemed the best way I could better myself and my family.

Did you have any preconceptions about college?

Well, in high school, my counselors made college seem intimidating: “You’re not going to get help from your teachers. They’re not going to care about your grades. Your success or failure is going to be all on you.” But at GSU, the classes are small enough that you almost can’t help but get one-on-one time with the professors. And when I go to office hours, my professors are always helpful and friendly. They genuinely care about their students—as students and as people.

What else surprised you as a first-generation student?

Similar to my experience with my professors, I’ve been amazed at how much assistance there is and how much people want to help you succeed. The Academic Resource Center has been great, and I’ve been fortunate to receive two scholarships, the Latino Scholarship and a Foundation Scholarship, which means I’ve not had to take out any loans so far, which is great.

What else has been valuable about GSU for you?

Location, definitely. As an older sibling, I have a lot of responsibilities at home and need to be available to help out whenever, and however, I can. For example, since neither of my parents speak English, I have to be available to help my younger brothers and sisters after school with their homework. I’m glad GSU is where it is, because I can go to school and take care of my family easily.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a first-generation student?

Go for it. You might be scared because you have no idea what to expect, but there are a ton of resources available to help you when you need it. Also, there’s a lot of freedom: you’re not pressured into doing what your dad or mom did at school! It’s your choice, you’re leading, making your own way.