Friday, August 04, 2017

Tips and Experiences being a First Generation College Student

A first generation college student is an individual whose parents did not attend or graduate from college. A lot of times these students are the first in their family to attend college.

I am the first person to attend college out of my immediate and extended family. And I can say I am very proud of myself that I am the first person to attend and graduate college.

The journey was long and strenuous but I can finally say I made it through all those one-nighters, long school days, exam weeks, commutes, and stress. It was well worth it. I do not think that I would have gotten the opportunities that I have had today without the college experience and without my degree.

When I look back through my four years at undergrad, I can honestly say as a high school senior going into my freshman year, I didn't know what the HELL I was doing. I didn't know what was needed for the application process for college, how I was gonna do on my SAT's, how I was gonna pay for college, etc. And I didn't have a lot of help like my peers did because my parents never went to college.

I did get help from my guidance counselor at the time. In fact, I was in his office EVERY DAY! I know he and everyone else in the guidance office were very tired of seeing my face but I can say that being in his office every day and asking questions helped me out in the long run.

When I finally got all my acceptance letters back and financial aid packages, I honestly just picked the school that gave me the most money, which probably wasn't the best choice. I could have made a more informed decision but it ended up working out in my favor. Thank God! I picked the perfect school without visiting the campus or talking to the students. I just picked it based on the financial aid, which I do not recommend doing. Like I said it ended up working out in my favor but what if I ended up hating the school that I went to. Or hated the program!

During my four years in undergrad, I was dealing with the struggle of not being home enough or "deserting" my family. I went through a great deal mentally because of the "breakaway guilt." My family viewed me and still view me as their way out of poverty. My decision to pursue higher education comes with a price and sacrifice of moving away for college and leaving my family behind just so I can succeed. Of course, I will help my family when I succeed but I know it will be a struggle getting there and dealing with this guilt. I am sure I am not the only one that felt/ feels this way. That feeling that you have abandoned your family when they rely on you the most. There is a way to use that feeling as a source of strength; using the fact that I have to succeed in order to help my family has kept me going on those days that I had no strength to go on. I became driven and determined instead of guilty and somber and that is what helped me get through school. And this is what will help me get through law school. So conquer those inner-demons and tell them that you will get through this and you will succeed. Even though you think you are at a disadvantage, use that to drive you through to the finish line. 

Tips on Being a First Generation Student 

1. Ask for help! There is nothing wrong asking for help if you need it. If you don't know something ask! Whether it is student support services, your teachers, your resident assistant, other students, or even counseling services, College is a new experience for everyone so no question is a dumb question, you will not look stupid... so ask already. 

2. Join a First Generation Group! Some schools have a club or a group for first-generation students so that you can meet others just like you. Not only is it a support group to help you adjust to college life, It's also where you can meet lots of new friends. And if your school doesn't have one make one! It helps tremendously to have a group that is going through the same thing you are.

3. Get Involved! Whether it be joining a club, sports, youth group, or a sorority. Find a way to get involved on campus. Make some new friends, especially with older peers for advice etc. 

4. Create Goals!  Create small goals for yourself and make them happen. I make small goals for myself every semester and try to achieve them at the end, it makes me feel like I am doing something towards my end goal. 

5. Expect Hurdles! Going through life expecting things to be easy or to go your way, is no way to live. Not only is it not true but that can cause disappointment and discouragements when things don't end up going your way. Expect the unexpected. 

6. Involve your family! I know I got homesick and those thoughts of abandonment crept up all the time so, involve your family. Involve them in your extra curricular activities or tell them about upcoming assignments or projects. If you have younger siblings, get them involved because you're most likely going to be guiding them through the process when they are ready to go to college.

For all the first generation students out there I just want to tell you that I am proud of you! Keep working hard and achieve great things. I am rooting for you!

                                              Much Love,

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