Q&A with first-generation student Makenna Shifflett

In honor of National First-Generation Student Week, Makenna Shifflett, freshman biochemistry major from Conway, Missouri, discusses her experience as a first-generation college student.

A photo of two students and a parent.
Photo courtesy of Makenna Shifflet.

Q: Why did you choose Mizzou?
 When I visited Mizzou last fall, I met with a series of advisors. From these short visits I was able to observe the support and opportunity that was offered here at Mizzou. I could see myself being successful, surrounded by amazing people and a beautiful campus.

Q: Why CAFNR/your chosen major?
 Before coming to Mizzou, I knew I wanted to become a physician. I was particularly interested in anesthesiology because I enjoyed the level of patient interaction and the application of the deeper understanding of the anesthetics and medications. With this interest I explored related majors and found a home in CAFNR within biochemistry, learning from professors researching topics such as the molecular basis of cancer and human diseases or cell signaling.

Q: What were/are some challenges you faced as a first-generation student?
A challenge that I have faced as a first-generation student are coming into this process completely blind. I wasn’t sure what the classes would be like, how to study, or how to balance everything that comes with college.

Q: Who has helped you overcome those challenges?
I have had a team of people helping me through this transition. My advisors have assisted me to feel prepared for the upcoming semesters through advice on topics like how to study effectively. The second part of this team takes place in each of the organizations I am involved in. I have met amazing people. They are supportive and extremely knowledgeable, and they are a big part of the relationships I have made here at Mizzou. Through these relationships I have always known that I have support for every college, academic, and involvement question I may have. I have also always known that when I am struggling, unsure, or nervous with such a big transition that my mom fully supports me and will always be there to listen.

Q: What’s your favorite part of attending Mizzou?
 I enjoy the community here at Mizzou the most. It is easy to feel at home when the environment is so welcoming and connected.

Q: What advice would you give other first-generation college students?
My advice for other first-generation students is to make sure to put yourself out there and get involved. Do research, join a random organization that interests you, make relationships with the people in your classes. That is how you make the most out of your college experience. I would also advise you to give yourself grace in the first few semesters. It’s okay to not get a good grade, to feel out of place, or not build relationships right away. It’s a big transition and you’re learning.

Q: How will your college experience impact your future?
My college experience will provide me with the ability to achieve my career goals. It will also shape me. Through my involvement and the people I have met, I have experienced so much personal growth. This means I will not only have the education to pursue my goals, but I will be a better person who has a lifetime of memories and experience that can be applied to every aspect of life.