There's a first for everything.

According to a recent study by the Department of Education, around 50 percent of the college population is composed of first-generation college students, or those whose parents did not receive education beyond high school.

Although minority groups comprise more than half of the first generation college student population, this trend shows higher university attendance from all American demographics.

But university life presents unique challenges to its students.

"One advantage is not knowing what to expect, which can be scary," said Tony Sheilds, a sophomore in supply chain management, "But very exciting because you learn so many new things and grow as a person."

Shields said this generational gap did pose challenges upon first entering UT.

"I didn't have that talk with my parents about what college would be like, what I would feel, or even their past experiences," Shields said. "I kind of dove in college blind and head first.

"If I call my dad with a problem I'm having in school, he can only give advice to a certain extent, because he hasn't been in my shoes."

Emma Ferraro, a junior in mathematics, said first generation college students often feel additional pressure from family to obtain a degree.

"I feel incredibly pressured to get a college degree," Ferraro said. "Sometimes, I feel as though my parents are pressuring me, because they want me to do better than they did, but even without college, I feel like I could be just as successful."

In Shields' opinion, these pressures come from all sides.

"Everyone has eyes on you, critiques you and just adds so much pressure," Sheilds said. "That can be tough, especially when you're already dealing with the pressures of college itself."

According to the Department of Education, 68 percent of first generation college students are burdened by loans.

Ferraro said an unsteady job market and growing interest rates make choosing to pursue higher education a stressful business.

"My parents wanted me to get a college degree because they thought it would help me live a better life than they did," Ferraro said. "Honestly, I don't think that with all of the student loans I have, that will be possible."

While there are significant challenges to the first-generation college student, Kaitlyn Smith, a junior in communication studies, pointed out the advantages it brings as well.

"There are definitely more financial aid awards, like scholarships for first-generation college students," Smith said. "But at the same time, being the first person in your family to go to college is hard.

"... Some of your family won't understand the challenges you face everyday, because they haven't faced these similar experiences."