I'm the first person in my family to go to a four-year university. With that comes a lot of pressure. I saw some of it coming, but I could never prepare myself for all of the obstacles that have come my way. Now that I'm about halfway done with college, I've noticed where I struggle the most.
1. I get so stressed.
We're all stressed and it's not a competition to see who has it the worst, but having added stress from something you have no control over is never easy. Being a first-generation college student means the odds are not in my favor for graduation, money is extra tight, and there's a common string of guilt among students like me. It's a lot of pressure and I feel it a lot more at certain points.
2. I get jealous of students who aren't first-generation.
There are students in my classes who I know have all these resources and an abundance of support. They grew up hearing stories of college and their whole lives they were preparing for the moment they'd go to college and make their own. I envy those kids because, for me, college is this ocean I was just thrown into. And I did want to learn to swim, but there just wasn't anyone to teach me. Within four years I'll figure it out, but it won't be easy.
3. My parents try so hard but they'll never fully understand.
I have the most supportive and thoughtful parents on the planet and I'm so thankful for that. But sometimes I go through things they can't relate to and that can be so hard to deal with. I know how bad they want to help me out and get me through any problems that might come up. At times I really wish I did have people at my disposal who have dealt with what I go through but it makes me that much stronger when I have to just learn as I go. On the other hand, I can be glad my parents raised me to be headstrong and independent.
4. There aren't enough people who get it.
The majority of professors assume that the students they're teaching have a sort of guide and automatically know exactly what to do. We're expected to have it all together and while no student is going to have their ducks in a row, it's even more unlikely with students who are going through it almost alone.
5. I'm afraid to ask for help.
There have been moments when I get completely in my head and I start thinking I'm completely on my own. I know I'm not and there are resources designated for me when I have questions, but it seems like my questions and concerns are really stupid and that they aren't real issues. I fear people will think I'm stupid, so I don't tell anyone.
6. I'm afraid to fail.
Failure is statistically more likely for first-generation students and that terrifies me. I'm so afraid that I won't amount to anything. It's scary that I could either be the first person in my family to graduate from a major university, or I could be the first to make it to one and then choke. Either way, it should be a big deal that I got into one at all, but to me, it isn't. I hold myself to the highest standards, regardless of if anyone else does the way I think. I've put all the weight on my shoulders.
7. I feel this huge pressure to make the most of the opportunity I have.
By the grace of God, and because of scholarships, aid, and programs built to help me, I'm going to college nearly for free. I'm so blessed and I really shouldn't complain about all these futile things that won't matter. But because of this opportunity, I put so much pressure on myself to do well and make the most of everything. I wish I could act like some of the things I do with my time here won't matter, but it all does. I have no room for screwing up. I have to hope the major I chose leads to something magnificent and that I do things that will benefit the greater parts of my life.
8. When I graduate, it will be the biggest deal and I'm not excited about it.
Being the first person on either side of my family to graduate from a university is such a milestone and I know it will cause a lot of attention. I know I'll be proud of myself and it'll be exciting, but part of me hopes it won't be a huge deal. College was inevitable for me. I knew all along that it would for sure, without a doubt happen, so now that I'm here and in the swing of things, it's no big thing.
9. I've been ashamed of it.
I've been ashamed of not having anyone in my family that had gone to college, especially freshman year. I didn't want anyone to know I had no idea what I was doing or how big of a struggle any of this would be for me. I never loved my family any less and it's not that I was ashamed of them, I was just embarrassed to have to do it more independently.
10. It also makes me really proud.
There has been so much personal growth with me because of how independent I've been. Every obstacle I get through makes me significantly stronger. Every time I have to ask for help, I learn something important. As I make my way through this massive learning experience, I become so much wiser. I took any bit of shame I had of where I came from and replaced it with this immense feeling of pride in where I am now and how far I can go.