When many people think about the overall expectations of college most words that come to mind are fun, life-changing, and from time to time a type of stress that is beyond belief.
These ideals are common among all college students but are much more blurry for those students who are the first generation to attend college in their family. For many of us that blurriest is due to lack of preparation and resources to help transition us into the ever so changing college lifestyle.
Unlike many of our peers, first gens are both expecting these things and discovering these things we had not been exposed to from out families. For me and probably most others, the college experience is a bit of a trial and error process. You tried not going to class for the week thinking that just looking over the PowerPoint would be "enough."
You realize quickly that ain't really it chief once you get back a low grade on the first exam or quiz. That feeling we've all experienced once we seen that score or got that alert from Canvas saying so and so has been graded, its a feeling that first gens feel almost constantly as we journey through higher education: inadequacy.
As a J-School student at Mizzou, one of the top Journalism programs in the nation, I constantly feel like I'm behind the rest of the pack. A lot of my own struggles as a first-gen come from the lack of college preparation I got from the high school I attended. Despite the "Preparatory" in its name, it didn't do much in getting me ready for a life as a college student.
With a lack of preparation but an unstoppable drive, I and so many other first gens truck along to our desired colleges and do the same expectation game like everyone else. Hovering over our heads are all the countless statistics and articles on how we won't receive a bachelor's degree in four years or even more haunting, that we won't finish school at all.
After doing a little digging, according to the Postsecondary National Policy Institution 2018 First-Generation Students in Higher Education fact sheet there is a myriad of issues that first gens face. Many of those include demonstrating a lack of college readiness causes drop at rates to be much higher than their peers. Along with that is a history of low-income backgrounds resulting in a backlash of student loan debt for them to drown in after finishing college.
While this may all sound bad, I want to close out with the notion of resiliency within every first-generation student. Those same struggles are the same things that drive us to push beyond the statistics. Having the immense pressure of just being a college student is a hand full for all of us, but for first gens, that pressure is almost doubled because we want to be that first. That first in the family to go the distance and conquer college despite the lack of preparation.
Often times my roommate and I will sit and chat, okay more like complain, about how naive and clueless we were when it came to how college would go. Us both being first gens almost always comes up and after all the complaining and joking around about just quitting it all, we always end with how we got this! Amid all the struggles of first-generation students there will also be a sense of hope, relentless drive and a hint of a chip on our shoulder as we take college head-on.