Harvard Primus: A Community for Harvard’s Firsts

Category Student Voices


Portrait of Alli, student
Allison Class of '21 Alumni
Authored on December 04, 2018


If you asked me my freshman year of high school what it meant to be a first-generation college student, I’d probably give you a confused look.

It wasn’t until junior year when I saw my friends and their parents scheduling college tours and I started researching colleges myself that I learned that, because neither of my parents has a four year college degree, I was considered a first-generation college student. Knowing this didn’t change anything about my life — I already knew that my parents would not be able to help much with my college applications and that I would have to seek out information on my own — but for the first time I really started to think about how being first-gen affects students’ application processes and how significant it is to be in the first generation of your family to earn a four-year college degree.

From that moment forward I embraced my first-gen identity. It brought difficulties, but also a sense of pride. I was determined to apply for scholarships, get into college, and make the most of the sacrifices my parents made so that I could have educational opportunities and experiences they couldn’t. Thanks to encouragement from different programs and resources that exist for first-generation students I ended up applying to Harvard early action and committing immediately! With the application process behind me, I set out on the new and exciting adventure of adjusting to college.

two people talking outside next to a poster that says Primus

Harvard Primus's President Brandon and I at our table at this year's activities fair!

One of the most important student groups that supported me throughout this process was Harvard Primus — formerly the Harvard First Generation Student Union — a group for first-gen, low income, and other students for whom coming to college and to Harvard is significant for their families and communities and also comes with a set of shared experiences and challenges.

Primus holds events that build community, connect students to different resources and opportunities on campus, and advocates on behalf of under-resourced students to Harvard’s student body and administration. My first-year roommate and I bonded over our first-gen identity, rocked our “Primus Pride” t-shirts together, and set out to take advantage of as many resources as we could to help us navigate college.

Towards the end of my freshman year I saw that Primus was having elections to join the group’s board. Motivated by how strongly I about my first-gen identity and the importance of this community at Harvard, I ran for Secretary and won. This past semester, the first of my sophomore year, has been a whirlwind of activity. I’ve helped Primus throw events for new first-year students and for the community at large, as well as staff panels and events related to summer opportunities, resources, and feelings of belonging at Harvard. I even fried hundreds of mozzarella sticks to give for free at one of our events! Being a part of Harvard Primus and of the first-gen and low income community on campus has helped me make friends, become more confident, and feel at home at Harvard and I hope that it continues to do this for other students for many years to come!



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Allison Class of '21 Alumni

Hello! My name is Allison and I’m a senior from Western Massachusetts living in Winthrop House. I’m concentrating in Social Studies with a secondary in English and I spend most of my free time on campus working for our newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.

Portrait of Alli Scharmann, student