Being first is not easy; it often comes with many struggles and bumps along the way. Whether it is training every day to win first place or having to figure things out on your own as a first- generation college student, the reward is 10 times worth it.
I consider myself first-gen-ish—not 100 percent first-gen, but I have still had to figure things out on my own. You see, my parents came into this country with an education, and my dad even received his associate degree. But no one in my immediate family had pursued a bachelor’s degree. Nonetheless, education was a priority in my household. We weren’t allowed to have less than a B in a class, and we had to practice our Spanish frequently.
College was always the plan for my brother and me. I knew Mom and Dad would help me through it, but it was all up to me to figure out how to get there. I didn’t know you typically applied to more than one university. I applied to SFA alone. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. I chose my major based on a character on a TV show. Later I found out that television has the power to make any job look fun— even assistant to the regional manager. I didn’t know the importance of the SAT and ACT. I took them because a friend did. All these things were situations that my foreign-educated parents couldn’t advise me in. My parents could help me with my homework (thanks, Mom, for getting me through accounting) but they couldn’t tell me what type of questions I would see on college entrance exams.
I went to Showcase Saturday and Orientation alone. I moved into my dorm by myself. So now let me be your first-gen-ish advice godmother!
Financial aid can be scary, but just sit down with your parents and their friendly tax returns, and go down row by row.
Get involved! Everyone says this, but, trust me, it will make your college experience so much better. My first semester I was driving home every weekend. It took a toll on my car. So basically, if you join an organization, you will save tons of gas money and make new friends.
Speaking of money, getting a job will probably be something on your list. Make sure you don’t let your job consume you, and definitively do not make it your first priority. Don’t forget, you moved hours away from home and left your parents behind to get an education, not to go work at a job you could have done back home. If you can get a job on campus, please do. The pay might not be as much as off campus, but your bosses will work with your school schedule, and you won’t have to spend holidays in Nacogdoches by yourself. There’s nothing worse than missing out on your dad’s Thanksgiving turkey just to watch people fight over a TV on Black Friday.
Shout out to Mom and Dad for helping me all these years in college. I know it hasn’t been easy, but look at us now!
Now, let me give you some quick Power- Point-style advice. We’re in college, after all. Sign up for a tutor at the AARC; Don’t overload yourself—only take the classes you can handle; It’s okay to not know what you want to do the first few semesters; Ask your mom how to do your laundry; Expand your horizons; and Talk to your professors.
And most importantly, you belong here. You figured out your own path to get here, and now it is time to shine.