Starting college for the first time is scary.
Starting college for the first time as the first person in your family to ever go to college is nerve-racking.
As of right now, there is no universal definition for a first-generation college student. However, most colleges define such a student with neither parent having a bachelor's degree from a four-year college. The New York Times reports that of the 7.3 million college students, approximately 20 percent are first-generation.
I am part of the 20 percent and I want to shine light on what it means to be a first-generation college student.
1. We are pioneers.
When we decided to pursue a higher education, it was more than just a simple decision. Our choice to venture off into a new environment is a bold one. As the first in our families to attend college, we do not have the privilege to call our parents whenever we need advice on something. They do not have the post-educational experience to guide us through a specific situation. Instead, we are the ones responsible for guiding ourselves through the higher academic setting. Even though it is difficult to step outside of our comfort zone, we will learn and grow as individuals. As pioneers, we are exploring the "unknown" that is college education, while establishing our legacy for future generations to come.
2. We are automatically considered role models.
Whether you believe this or not, attending college grants you lots of respect from your relatives or people from the community. You serve as an inspiration for the youth knowing that it is possible to continue a higher education. From their perspective, the younger generation finally has someone who it can relate to. Someone it can look up to and influence its decision to achieve more. This might be a lot to carry over your shoulders, but knowing that everyone is proud of you and wants to be you outweighs this pressure.
3. Questioning ourselves.
Why am I here? Can I even pass this course? Should I ask this question or will it make me seem stupid? There will be times where we often doubt ourselves as a student. We may feel academically underprepared for college and its demanding standards. The Atlantic reports that students who were not exposed to "rigorous college-prep tracks" often feel left behind. We may feel as though we don't fit in or belong in college. Most students on campus do not look like us. Most do not have financial burdens like we do. But even with all of this...
4. Determined to succeed.
We push those negative thoughts aside and focus on what matters: our future. Going to college allows us the chance to break away from the struggles our families faced and strive for a better life. As my mother would always say, "I only want you to become someone in life." We have the drive. We have the strength. We have the motivation to succeed in college. It's there, we just need the right push.
Being a first-generation student is tough. We are the first to explore beyond what our parents did not experience at all. There will be someone looking up to you and thinking, "If ___ can do this, then I can too." Times will get tough and we might doubt our presence on campus. However, just know that once graduation day comes around, everything we have done to get there will be worth it. Just wait and see.