May 30, 2024

'You deserve to be here’


Eliot Palmer felt at home as soon as he stepped on NDSU’s campus. 

“Everybody was so kind and welcoming and the campus was huge and beautiful. I was like ‘this is my college,’ said Palmer, a freshman anthropology major from Dickinson, North Dakota. 

As a first-generation student, Palmer said working toward a college degree will have a huge impact on his life. 

“For my family and me, it means that it’s a chance to have a better life than what I grew up with, than what my parents had,” he said. “My grandpa always said that the first step to a good life is to go to school.”

In addition to his parents encouraging him to further his education, Palmer has found plenty of support on campus, like TRIO Student Support Services. TRIO offers several free services to help eligible students academically, financially and personally. 

Some of those services include helping students fill out applications like financial aid, providing every student a mentor who frequently checks in and offering early course enrollment. Palmer said he enjoys utilizing the study space in the TRIO office and found TRIO’s study skills course beneficial to learn how to plan out homework and overcome test anxiety. 

“I cannot emphasize enough how important that was for me coming here, he said. “They’ve helped me restructure my financial aid so that I can afford to come here. They just do everything to make sure you feel comfortable and welcome.”

In addition to TRIO, Palmer said his friends have been his biggest support group for overcoming some of the challenges he has faced. 

“I feel like it’s pretty common for first-gen students to feel like they’re not really good enough to be at school. Sometimes I feel like I’m not smart enough or I just feel like I’m kidding myself being here,” he said. “I’ve got a friend who’s a senior at a different school and having her back me up and just support me is really helpful. I also know that if I ever wanted to talk to somebody on campus, I have people.”

Palmer has been able to make friends through student organizations. From the Lincoln Speech and Debate Society to Anthropology Club and the Pride Alliance, Palmer stays busy on campus and has enjoyed meeting other students who he wouldn’t have otherwise met. 

Palmer also has received a lot of support from professors. Having a variety of resources on campus is important to Palmer. 

“I think that’s essential because your friend group can only take you so far,” he said. “If you don’t feel welcomed by the institution itself, then I don’t think that you’ll stay. If I didn’t feel that connection or have professors that are so understanding and extend that hand, then I don’t think that I would feel as much of a need to stay at this school.”

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Palmer said the welcoming and down-to-earth staff, faculty and students are what made the campus community so inviting.  

Among Palmer’s mentors is Scott Norenberg, the director of TRIO, who Palmer said has helped him immensely. Palmer’s hard work and dedication to his education has stood out to Norenberg. 

“As Eliot works towards his degree, one thing I've come to admire about him is his curiosity. He is a person constantly engaged, constantly asking questions; he's a truly insightful student who's not scared of new ideas or ways of thinking,” Norenberg said. 

Palmer’s advice to prospective first-generation students is to learn about the process for financial aid and how semester fees work. He also wants potential first-generation NDSU students to know that they belong. 

“You deserve to be here. Your education is just as important and worthy as any of the other students,” he said.

Apply now to start your NDSU journey or schedule a visit to see and hear what NDSU has to offer. 

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