My mother had me at 18, a month after her high school graduation. She had aspirations of becoming a nurse but after she became pregnant with me, she gave up all her dreams. My father immigrated to the United States at just 16 years old by himself. He was a high school dropout and left China to chase the American Dream. However, he very soon realized that the American Dream would be very difficult to obtain without formal education. Since then, though my father never went back to school, he has opened a successful restaurant and has never failed to provide for our family.
College applications opened this week. As the first person in my family to apply to college, there is a lot of pressure on me because I want to break the circle in my family and set an example for my brothers. First-generation college applicants face challenges such as the lack of insight our parents have on the college experience as a whole. Since my parents never applied to college, the steps of writing essays, applying, and doing FAFSA are all confusing to them. Moreover, with the stigma surrounding first-generation college students (their intelligence, ability to get good grades, and function in a college setting), I often feel compelled to exceed those who aren't first-gen and the necessity to prove myself. I feel the need to prove that just because neither of my parents went to college, I can still do as well or even better.
Oftentimes, I envy people who aren't first-gen students. They grew up with all these resources, an abundance of support, and hearing stories of college. When I first started exploring college options, I felt as if I had been thrown into a fiery pit and I had to figure out how to escape by myself. However, I've discovered that between the internet and my high school counselor, there are plenty of resources at my fingertips that will help me through the college application process. The resources available for first-generation college students are absolutely endless and though my parents have utterly no idea how to fill out a FASFA form, my high school counselor and the Internet will never fail to assist me throughout this whole application process.
I count my blessings every day for the opportunities that I have been given by through my parents' hard work who did everything in their power to get me to where I am today. I want to be able to show my parents that even though they didn't have the opportunity to attend college, all their hard work has paid off as I've been given the opportunity to succeed. Even though there are numerous struggles with being a first-generation student, I wouldn't change it for the world.