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Facing Loneliness and Finding Belonging While Forging a New Path, From a First-gen Transfer Student

February 8, 2023
Lauren Maynard

As a first-generation college student, my acceptance to Princeton University came with a whirlwind of emotion. Despite being overjoyed with the news that Princeton was interested in what I had to offer, the reality of entering into an elite institution soon settled on me. Due to my lower socioeconomic status upbringing, fears crept into my thoughts about how I would relate to my peers as a matured, nontraditional student. A sense of loneliness peaked its ugly head as it seemed that no one would understand how I felt. The double-edged sword of my new privilege made it harder for me to connect with my family origins.


Upon entering Princeton’s halls, I was immediately welcomed by the Scholars Institute Fellows Program (SIFP)*. I gained new knowledge, improved my analytical capabilities, and formed promising friendships with other FLI (First-gen and or Low Income) students through my participation in the summer FSI program. SIFP adequately prepared me for Princeton’s rigorous academic environment. 


It was initially uncomfortable for me to be a part of an elite institution because I did not have the guidance and cultural capital to handle such a complex environment. As a result of SIFP’s efforts, I have felt that I belong–something I had always hoped for before I set foot at Princeton University. The advocacy for FLI students on campus empowered me to express myself and have my voice heard. I received invaluable guidance and mentorship from this program at a crucial time in my life. 


Having received so much support from my community, I now mentor peers as a way of giving back. Additionally, I have dedicated my Junior Paper, part of Princeton’s rigorous research curriculum for undergraduates, to researching and discovering the impacts of educational policies on the sense of belonging within the FLI community and the effectiveness of programs such as SIFP.

*All Transfer Students, as well as FLI students and veterans, are invited to apply to participate in SIFP,

Woman stand in front of banner reading "FLI IS FLY," in front of stone building with two tiger sculptures