For students who are first in their family (first generation college students) who attend college, access does not equate with success. They do not graduate from college at the same rate as their non-first generation peers. The purpose of this study was to examine the essence of the lived experiences of first generation college students at a traditional undergraduate university. The aim was to understand their college experiences including student engagement, and the effect of student engagement on academic success and persistence. A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was taken to gain a deep understanding of the essences of the everyday experiences of first generation college students at The University. Data collection for this study included interviews, member checking, and a researcher's journal. This study determined that for the first generation college students in this particular setting, the number one factor that contributed to student engagement was making connections. Students made these connections with friends, faculty, staff, and the university. The factors that contributed to academic success for first generation college students are discussed. Additionally, the practical implications of this study are considered.