First-generation and legacy student share differing views on the college experience


Easton Thompson

Payton Morgan (left) is a legacy student at Wichita State. Zane Storlie (right) is a first-generation student at Wichita State.

The “college experience” is a common blanket term, but in practice, students’ college experieces sound different depending on who’s explaining them.

Take senior Zane Storlie, for example, who says his college experience is mostly about controlling the education he receives.  

“It’s taking the reigns of education into your own hands,” Storlie said. “Up to this point, you’re mostly just following a track. And you’re still following a track [in college], but you get to choose the track now.”

For senior Payton Morgan, the college experience is more about the sleepless nights, fun times, and friendships made.

“So long days, long nights, but a lot of fun and a lot of growing,” Morgan said.

Morgan and Storlie’s perspectives on the college experience are shaped by their differing backgrounds.

Storlie is a first-generation student, while Morgan is a legacy student. By definition, a first-generation student is someone whose parents did not earn a four-year college degree. A legacy student is someone whose parents attended the same university.

In fall 2018, about 45% of undergraduate students at Wichita State were first-generation shockers.

While Storlie now has plans to attend graduate school after earning his undergrad degree, he said that when he was younger, college was a foreign topic.

“My parents always constantly reminded me I was working towards something,” Storlie said. “But part of the issue was they didn’t know how to talk to me about it because they didn’t understand it all.” 

This contrasts with Morgan, a legacy student, who said he never had a doubt in his mind that college was his next destination after high school. 

“I always felt like I didn’t have necessarily a choice . . . like I wanted to go, but in my family, it’s either you’re going to college or — you’re getting some sort of education,” Morgan said. “You need to get educated.”

Morgan’s parents both graduated from WSU, and his mother, Kaye Monk-Morgan, is assistant vice president of academic affairs. She ran an Upward Bound program at WSU while Morgan was growing up.  

“Her job was getting low-income first-generation high school students into college,” he said. “Watching her bring kids into college made me like, ‘Okay, college is really cool. I should go.’” 

No matter what a student’s background is, there are always trials in transitioning into college life. While Morgan said having parents with a college background made it easier, he still faced his own challenges.

“There are just some things that just no matter what people tell you or teach you that you have to experience yourself, and I feel like college is one of those things,” Morgan said.

Storlie too has had his fair share of difficulties, and like Morgan, he fought through them.

 “I had other issues just come up from being an adult,” Storlie said. “But it wasn’t so bad because of my experience with the TRIO programs.

“When I started the TRIO program, that was a little bit of a bigger shock — introducing me to the college concepts and everything.”

Morgan said that for him, the college experience is about more than just earning a four-year degree.

“Of course, [what I want to get out of college is] the degree and hopefully a job, but I think the personal growth is the biggest part for me,” Morgan said. 

Storlie said he hopes to set an example as a college graduate and bring hope to his family members.

“A big part is kind of breaking the mold of my family — kind of showing them that they can do more things,” Storlie said.

As an older brother, he takes that responsibility seriously.

“I’ve got three younger siblings, so that’s an important thing,” he said.

Differences aside, Morgan and Storlie have advice for college students of all walks of life.

Morgan said motivation is the key.

“Stay motivated. I think that’s the hardest thing, but the only way you can make it through is if you show up to class every day and you continue to pay attention,” Morgan said. “Put in that extra time, put in that extra effort, because it’s going to help you at the end.”

Storlie said college is about setting goals.

“I think that having some kind of ambition and striving towards it . . . always taking baby steps at a time, is really crucial,” he said.