The View From Here: Being a First-Generation College Student

   Being a first-generation college student can come with a multitude of feelings.
   We can feel extra pressure to succeed or even like our families think we see ourselves as being better than them. We may also have trouble getting the ball rolling and making our way through all of the hoops you have to jump through to actually become a student and thrive in college.
   Extra pressure to succeed is something I know I personally struggle with on a daily basis. Since I will be the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college, I feel like if I fail, everyone will see me as a disappointment or failure.
   I would have wasted all of this money and had nothing to show for it. When your family cannot afford to help you pay for school, and you do not expect them to, it can feel like we need to prove ourselves even more than some others.
   Yes, I will have a lot of debt for a long time, but at least I will have a degree and hopefully a good job that I mostly enjoy, which would help me to pay off my debt in the future.
   For me, no matter how much my parents or siblings say they are proud of me, I am constantly worrying that, to them, I believe I am better or smarter than them—and I worry it will be like that for the rest of my life.
   The last thing I want is for the people I love to think that I see them as lower than me because it is so far from the truth. I understand that this was not their path in life and that is okay.
   Going to college is just something that I knew I wanted for myself. I am not trying to say that this makes them bad people if they do actually feel this way. I  would just think there is a bit of misunderstanding in our relationship that we need to work on. Most of us are attending and graduating college so that we have better knowledge for (and a better chance at starting) the career we want in life, but some of us may worry that our families think we do not find their jobs or careers (which they have without needing a college degree) not good enough for ourselves.
   Again, I am not saying our families do feel this way—it is just a legitimate concern that many of us have. We might worry that we do not come off in the way we mean to and that our families do not know how positively we see them or their life decisions. This is just something I wanted for myself, so I did it.
   One other thing that may affect first-generation college students is applying to and preparing for college. Since no one in my family had much experience with these things, I went into it having no idea what to expect.
   In high school, I learned the basics of applying to schools and for scholarships, but I felt completely lost when it came to getting everything organized as well as filling out my FAFSA. There were all of these questions that I was expected to know how to answer, but my mother did not even know how to answer. She expected me to figure it out so I could explain it to her.
   I got it figured out after a lot of stress, but no one in my family was really able to help me because none of them had any experience with it either. It felt nice to be able to help my sister with this over winter break, and I was grateful that someone was able to do that for her because I know what it is like to not have that.
   You may feel lost, but you can figure it out. Always ask for help and know you are not alone.

Courtney Sronce

Photo courtesy of LinkedIn.