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First-generation college students face a number of barriers to academic success and completion of their degrees. Using Bronfenbrenner’s (1989) ecological theory as a framework, qualitative research was used to examine the experiences of 10 first-generation Appalachian Kentucky university students (mean age = 21 years) and factors they attributed to their educational success. Content analysis was used to analyze the data. Seven themes representing participants’ experiences in a university setting were identified: (a) close-knit families and communities, (b) separate identities, (c) knowledge of college procedures, (d) pressure to succeed, (e) returning home, (f ) the pervasiveness of poverty, and (g) the importance of early intervention programming. Additional areas for research and potential policy adjustments for universities serving this population are presented.