For some students, going to college is a rite of passage passed down from parents. All new students face challenges in the transition to college, but for first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students, it’s a whole new world. Shannon Shipley and Anitra Persaud, both second-year students at the Perelman School of Medicine know the differences firsthand.
“Growing up, I didn’t realize we were low income because it was all I knew,” Shipley says. Even when it came to knowing about SATs, MCATs and extracurricular activities, she was on her own. “I spearheaded everything. I didn’t even realize the amount of financial aid that could possibly be available to me until I applied as an undergrad.”
Last year, to help current—and future—FGLI students get the support they need, a group of medical students (Michael Perez, Cheyenne Williams, Mariam Olujide, and Jordan Harris) created Low Income and First Time Undergraduate & Medical Students of the University of Pennsylvania (LIFT US UP), also known as Penn Med FGLI. Persaud and Shipley now lead the group, which is one of many cultural affinity groups at Penn Med.
Providing a community for these students helps counter feelings of isolation and the “impostor” syndrome that FGLI students may experience, says Neha Vapiwala, associate dean of admissions at Penn Medicine and associate professor of radiation oncology, the group’s faculty adviser.
“Some FGLI students may experience feelings that they don’t belong, that they don’t have all of the resources they need and thus are not as well-equipped to be in this environment,” she says. “And this self-doubt may plague them. In the first six to 12 months of school, it’s a common and potent barrier to feeling integrated, to feeling that you belong.”
Read more at Penn Medicine News.