What It Feels Like To Be A First-Generation College Student

What It Feels Like To Be A First-Generation College Student

For those of you who don't know...

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I often find myself going to great lengths trying to describe this very difficult journey I am on that some people call college. It's hardest to describe to my family and friends who have decided to not go to college. They all seem to understand that it's hard, but I don't think they understand how difficult college really is.

I think it goes without saying that the schoolwork is almost enough to drive you crazy. Keyword = almost. I can't complain too much about the fact that my schoolwork is difficult considering I personally chose to go to the number 13th best public university in the nation. I am constantly overwhelmed and there isn't a second in my life that I am not thinking about the 40ish things on my to-do list or stressing about a deadline. But I know that I can do it. I know that I am capable and that is what keeps me going.

College is hard in general, but being a first-generation college student definitely adds an entirely new layer of confusion. I planned to originally name this "What It Feels Like To Be a College Student" and then realized that being a first-generation college student was a lot more fitting to my situation. We are all aware (or should be at least) that systematically first gen college students have a harder time getting through college, because {systematically} they typically come from lower-income families and are raised by people who, in fact, have never been to college. Luckily, I do not have to pay for my own college like many first-generation college students do, because my parents are kindly feeling the wrath of that for me. Although, I feel disadvantaged sometimes.

Now some of you may think, "well what does it matter if your parents went to college or not?" I have a simple answer to this. It matters because I have no idea what in the world I am doing. It has less to do with what my parents decided to do with their lives and more to do with the reality of doing something people you know just don't do. Coming from Brunswick, GA where only about 10% of the population has actually obtained a bachelor degree before, I can probably count on two hands how many people I know that successfully went to college and got a degree. And those people aren't the ones close to me or in my immediate circle. Therefore, I have been working through college with essentially no kind of guidance and I never really know what to expect.

From making decisions about what classes to take to choosing a major, I am truly just winging it. I hope that this extravagant plan in my head works out seamlessly because the Lord knows I am trying SUPER hard to be the first person in my family to get a college degree. Sometimes I wish my family or friends from home could tell me if it's the right decision to join another club or tell me how to make my LinkedIn better, but I just don't have that. They can give me advice all day about something they don't actually know about, but they have no idea how much each of these tiny little decisions can make an impact on my future. There's no one to tell me how to get an internship. Or how to balance a heavy course load. No one to tell me what to do when I feel super overwhelmed by it all. No one to tell me how exactly to stay afloat. It may seem like a minute problem to have to figure these things out on your own, but when it's happening to you it sure feels a lot different. It feels like walking into one of the most important journeys of your life... when you literally just learned how to walk... and you have a blindfold on.

What it comes down to is my education and experiences just aren't the same as my classmates. Many of them went to private schools, expensive summer camps, and traveled the world. If you ever heard of Brunswick High School, you'd know I am nowhere close to being in the running with these kids. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I feel like a South Georgia gal that made it this far on accident (which is 100% not true). Many of them can speak 3 languages, and I am still trying to stop saying words like "y' all" and "ain't" in professional situations. They dream big and know they have a good chance of making it a reality because their parents own a Porsche, a vacation home in Nantucket, and a million dollar company. Well, bump them because my parents actually own their own home too and that's considered doing real good where I'm from.

There's nothing harder about college for me than the pressure I feel to be able to create that million dollar company that can change everything for my family. Or to have enough business endeavors to employ all of my distant cousins, crazy aunties, and everybody in between. The pressure I feel is about making a generational change. The pressure I feel is wanting to show my niece that she can also go to college and make it through. I want the people who look like me and talk like me to know they can all do it too. And I really want to be my mom's boss (duh).

Now I am in no way saying that kids with parents who went to college have all the keys to be successful in college. But I am simply just saying, it's different. So if you know a first-generation college student, take a minute to let them know you support and respect what they're doing. A lot of them are the last link to bringing their families out of poverty. And I can assure you a lot of them are currently figuring a lot of things out as they go. When they feel discouraged, be there to listen and try your best to understand. To my fellow first-generation college students, hang in there because it's not easy making history.

Lastly, I want to say my parents ARE the reason I am in college and able to do the things that I am doing. They may not have been able to go to college themselves or give me a super boujee rich life growing up, but they provided me with everything I needed to get me this far.

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12 Dorm Room 'Essentials' That Are Actually A Waste Of Money

If three years of college has taught me anything, it's that I wasted a lot of money and space on things for my dorm room that I never used.

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Now approaching my senior year of college, there are so many things that I have experienced in my three years away that I either look back at and smile just at the thought of or immediately regret. With a younger sister going into her freshman year of college, I hope to teach her as much of those lessons I learned in advance so she doesn't make the same mistakes as me. One of the most important things I learned after moving in and out of dorm rooms and apartments for three years is what should and shouldn't come with you to school. Because, let's be real, as much as we want to pack away our entire lives and fit them in our minuscule dorm room, not everything is necessary.

However, knowledge is power, and I don't want to just save my sister from making those mistakes. That's why I'm here to share the 12 things that aren't necessary for you to bring to school:

1. A Keurig/coffee maker

While living in an apartment and having all the space in a kitchen for a coffee maker and the time to make my own hot drinks, having a Keurig was a godsend. But I'm going to be completely honest, as someone who wanted a Keurig so badly before freshman year...I rarely used it when I lived in the dorms. Between having meal points to buy my own coffee and just never having the time or energy to make it in the morning and then clean the dishes afterward, it just wasn't worth the waste of money and space.

2. A giant television

You may see pictures of dorm rooms and see students with giant televisions along their window or squished onto their desks. But unless you're living in a larger apartment, having a huge flat screen TV has no purpose for a small dorm room. There are TV's usually all over campus, especially in the common rooms that are free for you to use. If you really do feel like you need a TV in your dorm, a smaller one will suffice, because anything larger is going to take up some much-needed room.

3. Any type of hot plate/mini grill, etc.

Besides the fact that these are banned in most dormitories anyways, it's not smart to sneak one of these into your rooms. I can't tell you how many people I know that have accidentally started a fire in the dorm room from using a toaster they snuck in or a special "grilled cheese grill." The dining halls will have everything you could possibly want and need, and most dorm rooms come with a mini fridge and microwave to supplement anything further.

4. Candles

I'll admit, I am guilty of using these my sophomore year of college. Do I regret the millions of times I freaked out because I almost lit my dorm room on fire? Absolutely.

It's not worth it. Your RA will probably catch you, it's not worth the risk of accidentally setting your shoebox-sized dorm on fire, and the smoke detectors in those rooms are so sensitive that you're bound to set them off.

5. A printer

Unless you're living off campus in an apartment, there really is no reason to have a printer in your dorm room. There are tons of printers throughout the different buildings of every university, and most allot a certain amount of sheets for you to do your printing. Printers are big and clunky, hard to store, and the ink is very expensive. Don't consider buying one unless you plan on moving off campus.

6. An iron and ironing board

Take it from someone who absolutely hates wearing wrinkly clothes, the whole iron and ironing board duo was not a smart move my freshman year. It took up way too much room and when I did actually want to iron, it was so annoying to find a spot to do it in my small room.

If you're really obsessive about having non-wrinkled clothes like I am, you can invest in a mini steamer, which is super cheap, stored extremely easily because they're so small, and work just as well as an iron. I ended up swapping out for one of these my sophomore year and loving it so much more.

7. Bean bag chairs/Folding chairs

Any extra seating for a dorm room is honestly unnecessary besides the standard desk chairs that come with the dorm. The floor space is so limited that taking it up with any other large items is going to make it extremely difficult to navigate around your room. Also, when your friends come to hang out, they usually will end up just sitting on your bed or your desk chair anyways.

8. A body pillow

I don't really know what the use of these things are. I had one freshman year, and it laid against my bed the entire year and I never used it. I just found laying on it extremely awkward and uncomfortable and it was just so big that it took up too much room on my already tiny Twin XL bed.

9. A laundry hamper

A stand-up laundry hamper is just going to take up way too much space that you don't have. Instead, invest in some nicely made laundry bags that you can put your dirty laundry in and just easily carry over to the laundry room. A lot of stores even make special bags that differentiate between lights, darks, and delicates so the sorting is already done for you before you do your laundry.

10. A vacuum

While the idea of having a vacuum is nice, and I myself have had one all three years, it just took up way too much room in my dorm and I later found out you could just rent one from the commons whenever you wanted to clean your floor. Most universities do have cleaning supplies for rent, such as brooms, swifters, vacuums, etc., so there's no need trying to fit all of those in your closet.

11. A million throw pillows

While they'll make your bed look cute, making your bed every single morning and remembering where to put the millions of decorative pillows can become very annoying, not to mention finding a place to put them whenever you turn down your bed.

12. Picture frames

While having tons of pictures in your dorm room is nice, and I say the more the merrier, bringing physical picture frames is just a waste because there's not much shelf or desk place to place them. Instead, find a cute wall decoration that holds photos or clips to hang them from your wall. It'll save a ton of space and also cover up those bare, ugly dorm room walls.

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