An Open Letter To First Generation Students about College

What it feels like being at college for the first couple of weeks

Dear, first-gen student your first year is going to be one of the toughest years of your entire life. But, there is still hope. With coming to college one of the first things you are going to notice is your environment such as social groups, studying habits, and your room. now it is up to you to decide how hard this upcoming freshman year is going to be on yourself. I would assume that you want it to be challenging and easy enough to be exploring at the same time to find the perfect field of study for yourself.

Take it from a first-generation college student who is just about to be finished with two thirds of my freshman year of college, and to say the least this year has been a hell of a ride so far. There have been so many ups and down and a plethora of things I have discovered about myself and my cultural identity, and more stresses put on by the weight of responsibilities and family. So, take it from me when I say I had my fair share of the short end of the stick.

Like many of you coming to coming to college was told to me and encouraged from childhood, something that is engrained and something I had to do to make my parents proud. However, after living here at college there are so many things that those fancy college tours and those self-made YouTube videos don’t tell you about college.

First things first, after getting to college you’re going to be hit with the nostalgia of being at home and being homesick. Don’t worry even when you’re at college you can still call your family every week and take trips back home for the weekend. However, be warned once you go back home you will experience something called. Breakaway guilt. This guilt so to speak is something that is unique to first-generation college students. The definition it is the “vague sense that first-generation students are doing something wrong when they leave the home culture for college”. But, really all it is you trying to finding yourself between two identities. One of the college student, one of the best educated people in the world, someone associated with the middle to upper class and being privileged, and on the other hand the person from a lower socio-economic class family trying to make someone of themselves and to bring their family honor of being on of the first educated in the family and to make money.

Rest assured if you can practice family mindfulness enough and fit in well with the environment at school. Eventually this identity crisis will evolve into becoming an entirely new identity for you, and rather shying away from it, you should embrace it and remember that your family wants you to be at college to experience it all and have a better life than your parents. They only want the best for you. However, use the resources at your college to find other people who also have the same hobbies and identities as you. Just know that our surroundings define us, however it is also us who define our surroundings, so take in the environment but don’t be consumed by it.

The second thing to know is the implications of debt and the value of an education. It is one of major ways college will make you stresses out. Coming to college is expensive and like many of my peer’s, we will associate ourselves with debt is associated with college. Looking at the numbers and the rising cost of attendance college is expensive to say the least, however worth it. Realize that the cost of an education is only monetary. Utilize the FAFSA and work during the summer if you can and realize that even though you don’t come to college with college payed for know that you won’t waste your parent’s money and time knowing the responsibility that you carry on your shoulders.

Knowing the value of a real education that this is going to be one of the first steps into independence giving you a head start on becoming an adult. The real value of an education are the networks of people you will meet and the experiences that you will have, and the skills you will gather during your time at university. To eventually either help your family or communities when you get back home, or even doing it for yourself. Knowing the goal and defining it in the end will help you reach it.

Most people wont even open a book until finals

The third thing to know is staying on top of your academics, also being one of the main major stresses that a first-generation student hast to deal with. Knowing your study habits and how to study is something that you need to find out before you get to college, but if not try to experiment around with different types of ways of studying and seeing what environment works the best. However, understanding how to use the college system to your advantage is best case scenario, like many first-gens the thought of office hours does seem intimidating however realizing that time allotting for office hours are on purpose of going in to ask questions and for the students specifically. Additionally, signing up for classes can prove to be quite challenging however you shouldn’t be afraid to walk into academic advising or meeting with an adviser on planning since their purpose of being here is to help you to begin with. Keep in mind that you’re here for a reason and no matter how tough it gets you’re going to get though it if you try hard enough, you will have to be the one to decide and initiate on choosing what path you want to take on your journey to student success.

One thing to remember is to not procrastinate, that will likely be one of the worst decisions you can make, instead try chunking out the work and spread it over a few days, working on it piece by piece will make life so much easier than doing it all at once at the very end. Picking up this habit just adds on more stress academically and psychologically making college harder than it needs to be.

But, one thing to remember is to have some fun and de-stress when you need to utilizing all the resources you have like a recreational center, self-love, and meditation, and realize when to use that pressure to motivate you. College will have its share of stresses, emotionally, financially, and academically. Don’t think of it as a bad thing but rather something that you can use to your advantage and make your identity from and an aid to knowing your path in life and what you want to do with it. These four years will be for you alone to decide how to conquer life and make it your own worth living.

Go forth and find yourself

Good luck on your journey, and best wishes at college.

-Johnny