UC Answers: How does UC support first-gen students?

First-generation UC alum and current UC staff member shares tips on navigating college life

First-generation college grad Jamar Beckham is a financial aid adviser at the University of Cincinnati and proud UC alumnus.

He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2018 from UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH).

Beckham offers advice to other first-generation students navigating higher education.

What made you choose UC?

As a high school student at the nearby Hughes High School, I always wanted to know how it felt to be a Bearcat. I grew up around the area and wanted to go away to college, but not too far from home. Attending a Cincinnati Public School, I learned about UC’s Gen-1 program.

What was your experience as a first-generation student?

When I applied to receive more information, I met [now-retired Gen-1 program coordinator] Judith Mause. From our first conversation, she already saw something in me that I didn’t know I had at the time. She saw a student with a bright future who later on became a role model around the UC community.

Being a part of the Gen-1 program allowed me to discover a family full of other students, staff and other members in the UC community. A home away from home. As I grew, I began to network with wonderful people who I can rely on.

How does UC support first-generation students?

UC focuses on and connects with first-generation students and provides programs to help them step out of their comfort zone. Support includes advising, mentoring, individual and small-group tutoring, voluntary and mandatory study sessions, frequent monitoring of student academic performance, social activities, professional counseling and guidance.

There are too many people to name that helped me while a student and then after graduation, from the Gen-1 program to my college and my financial aid team. They are the people who helped me grow into the person I am today.

What made you want to work at UC after graduation?

As an ungrad, I worked as a student worker in CECH with one of the friendliest and most hard-working groups of individuals I’ve ever met. I honestly couldn’t see myself leaving. I tried to step away from UC for six months working as a paralegal, but in the back of my head I kept missing the UC community. 

Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat.

Tell us about your work as a UC financial aid adviser.

It gives me the opportunity to visit high schools, explain the importance of financial aid and share my college experiences. I’m also able to help out current UC students and provide advice for their particular situations, even if it doesn’t deal with financial aid. I consider myself a role model who will be there for them if they need me.

What advice do you have for other first-generation students?

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help
  • Step out your comfort zone
  • Learn something new
  • Master time management
  • Network
  • Join a club or organization
  • Help others
  • Take advantage of every moment because time will fly by
  • Discover yourself

What’s next for you?

In 2021 I plan on taking the next big step in my life. I have decided to pursue my master’s degree in criminal justice at UC.


Featured image at top of Jamar Beckham. Photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative + Brand

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Find more Bearcat student stories from first-generation trailblazers.

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