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

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

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

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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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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