I am where I am today because of the support system I had that stuck by me and never gave up, even though I wanted to give up on myself at times. When I was a first-generation undergraduate college student, the adjustment period during my first semester was tough to handle. Unfortunately I did not get the adequate preparation for college from my high school (not to talk down about the school at all, but just speaking the truth), so I had to learn everything on my own when it came to getting ready for college.
I felt I was lagging behind my non-first generation peers, who seemed to have everything together. I kept saying to myself, “Maybe I don’t belong here.”
What ultimately made me not drop out was my support system. I was able to develop relationships with other students who’ve become lifelong friends, and staff members in the Student Affairs field who became mentors and an added network of support. I said to myself that I WILL make it through college, graduate, and not give up on myself. I also told myself that I belong here on this college campus just as much as the next person, and that I am going places. My support system helped me erase the negative thinking and replace it with positive thinking about myself. My confidence level was regained and I said to myself “I CAN do this” once a challenge arises.
For other first-generation college students out there who may feel alone, hopeless, or not sure of what to do as they embark on the college path, I want to offer some advice:
Tell yourself you belong in college and that you WILL succeed.
Don’t let negative thinking enter your mind. Know that you have every right to be on that college campus and are just as intelligent as your peers. You have come so far and overcome tremendous odds of breaking the cycle by becoming the first in your family attending. This is such a HUGE accomplishment. This says so much about you, about how much you want to achieve in life. You are destined for greatness.
Formulate study groups.
Connect with like-minded individuals in your classroom or around campus. This can help you study and prepare for tests, quizzes, term papers, and other projects. Study groups can also create bonds that become long-standing friendships, where you are there for each other beyond academics.
Let’s be honest, college is not easy at all; if it were, then everyone would be doing it. Getting to and finishing college takes a person with the will, determination, and drive to take their education and career to high levels. As a first-generation college student, you are the type that wants to achieve so much in life. No matter how challenging college may get along the way, DO NOT give up on yourself. Keep pressing forward to the finish line. You CAN do this. Always remember that a winner never quits and a quitter never wins. You are a winner for sure.
Get involved on campus.
Studies have shown getting involved in at least one student organization improves academics (GPA), self-esteem, and social life. When you are involved on campus you feel included in the community and not excluded, and you are able to meet people from all walks life. So get involved and let your leadership shine through so people know your presence.
Do not let the pressures of family steer you away from finishing your degree.
For many first-generation students, the pressure of family influencing the student to stop pursuing their degree can be very stressful. Just being real here. This can be due to your family needing help with finances and/or your family thinking that you are acting stuck up or better than them. Many first-gen students may internalize this as guilt and have negative feelings about themselves. When situations arise like this, remember to stand firm and advocate for yourself to your family. Make it clear that you are determined to finish your degree no matter what and that they have to understand, respect, and accept it for what it is. This is your life that YOU must take control of. You can’t let others, especially family, live your life. I know this is sometimes easier said than done, but you have to do what’s right and best for you.
Develop a support system on campus.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. When you ask for help, people will help you. Connect with staff members in the Student Affairs/or Student Life division, faculty members, and other campus officials. Ask them to be your backbone and cheerleaders. These are the people you trust and know sincerely, and they are in your corner. These are the people who will pick you up when you fall, encourage you to finish your degree, correct your mistakes, and give you that extra push with love. They will make sure you graduate college and land in the career you always dreamed of. Your support system only wants the best for you and to see you happy.
Looking back through the years, examining where I am right now, and thinking about the man I’ve become, I’m so grateful for my support system and their belief in me since day one. I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this world and that I have people in my corner. I am stronger and wiser because of them. I am forever grateful that I found my support system.