My Experience Being a Low-Income, First Generation Student

My Experience Being a Low-Income, First Generation Student

At my expensive, private college being both first-gen and low income is something not a lot of students can relate to; and it sometimes sucks.
87
views

It is almost time for move in day on college again. Another year of bright faced freshman scared and unsure what they will encounter during the next four years. Everyone is unsure of how they are going to make friends, if they have enough meal swipes, where their classes are, and for first generation, low income, single parent, or really any student who is not the classic middle class WASP the experience is different. I cannot speak for what it is like to be a racial minority on campus but I can for what it is like to be a low income, first generation college student from a single parent household on a predominately white, rich campus. So that is what I am going to talk about today.

The differences start really the first day. Everyone talks about what their parents do. I have a few friends whose parents are lawyers, someone owns an IT company, someone else owns a medical supply company, and one of my friend’s dad is a friggin Ambassador. Most people accept my mom worked for Macy’s at the time but some kids gave you this look of confusion, almost like they are wondering how I got into my school. A lot of people think you mean your parent has a cooperate job and when they find out it is in store give you a look of confusion and once I was asked if I was poor, because apparently some people think that is perfectly acceptable to ask. So immediately lines are drawn in the sand of who you can be friends with (trust me you don’t want to be friends with someone who judges someone on what job they have).

Then people start talking about were their parents went to college and what they majored in, this is where it came out for me that I was first gen. A lot of people are completely fine with this fact since my college does have a decent first generation enrollment for its caliber. But some people take personal offense to that. I have been told on multiple occasions that I “do not seem like a first-gen student” because apparently first-gen is supposed to act a certain way. I’m never sure how to reply for those.

Since money is tight I obviously had to get a job. I know a lot of students who get jobs so I am not alone in that experience. However, our understanding of money is very different. A lot of my friends though I could go out more or afford nicer restaurants (we’re talking $20 meals here) because I had a job. No matter how many times I said that my money pays for college they still kept thinking I could go out more. While I appreciated the invites to them I did not appreciate the pressuring to go with the rational that I have a job so I must have the money. It is just not how it works.

While talking about money let’s talk about the conversations you will overhear about other people’s financial aid packages raising tuition for others and they do not belong on the campus, because you will hear it. Nothing else is worse than hearing that. While asking how you got into the school or saying you do not seem like a first gen student is ignorant this is just hateful. That is the moment I realized there are people on my campus who do not want me there just because I am not as well off as them. It confirmed my suspicions that some of the rude comments came from prejudice against lower classes just as much as it did ignorance. It also added onto the feeling that I was an outsider on my own campus, something which all the other experiences had just added to.

That is not to say the entire campus is against you. Most people want to see you succeed. They want you to have a better life. A lot of students I meet could not care less where your background is. But many students still fail at understanding how your background is going to mean you live life differently from them. Fortunately the students who are willing to accept you are also willing to listen and to learn. Most importantly they are the kids who made me feel like I belonged on my campus. For a campus with a rather tense class ( and racial but cannot speak to that) divide I am grateful for this because the one thing I would want to tell whoever is coming into campus in my shoes is that you do belong.

Cover Image Credit: Loyola University Chicago

Popular Right Now

20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.
47878
views

Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

SEE ALSO: A Quick PSA To My Fellow New Jerseyians

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

SEE ALSO: What Being A New Jersey Driver Has Taught Me About Bad Drivers

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

SEE ALSO: College As Told By 'Jersey Shore'

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

SEE ALSO: The Garden State Guide To Essential Jersey Slang

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

6 Amazing RuPaul's Drag Race Web Series

For those of us with an insatiable THIRST for drag content.
73
views

Thanks to YouTube channels like WOWPresents and Logo, those of us who watch RuPaul's Drag Race religiously have a huge library of online content to peruse when we're tired of Season 8 reruns. Here's a list, in no particular order, of some of the best RuPaul alumnus content on YouTube.

1. UNHhhh

Starring Trixie Mattel and Katya

UNHhhh is perhaps the most legendary of drag queen YouTube series, and is best enjoyed by accidentally memorizing the words to each episode and talking over Trixie and Katya. To fully appreciate the jokes it's ideal to have seen every previous episode of UNHhhh and RuPaul's Drag Race. Their YouTube show was so popular it landed them an actual TV show on Viceland, The Trixie & Katya Show.


2. Milk's LegenDAIRY Looks

Starring Milk

Milk, from Season 6 of Drag Race and Season 3 of All Stars, has a series of unconventional makeup tutorials. Some looks include Nancy Kerrigan, Little Ho Peep, Udders The Clown, and Ice Woman Cummeth.


3. Really Queen?

Starring Bianca Del Rio

The winner of Season 7 is well-known for her roasting skills, and each video of this 11-video series is dedicated to a different queen or personality from RuPaul Drag Race. Tune in for raspy shouting about Laganja Estranja!


4. Wait, What?

Starring Kimora Blac and Guests

This is a shorter series, but fans of the classic video Drag Queens Not Knowing Things will be enthused. Starring the legendarily, uh, challenged queen Kimora Blac with an array of guests struggling to know stuff in front of a camera.


5. Fashion Photo Ruview

Starring Raven and Raja

Fashion Photo Ruview is perhaps one of the longest-running and most extensive RPDR series on YouTube. In this series, the winner of Season 3, Raja, and close runner-up Raven, "toot" or "boot" looks from the runway, challenges, social media, and promos.


6. M.U.G.

Starring Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls

The last show on this list is brought to you by Season 8's runner-ups, Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls. They're both known for they're makeup skills, and this show is a mix of makeup tutorials and Fashion Photo Ruview (but for makeup looks).


There are plenty more great shows to go around, including Alyssa's Secret and Miz Cracker's Review with a Jew, but these are a great few to take a look at if you haven't already!

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

Related Content

Facebook Comments