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How To Find Your Place in College as a First Generation College Student

Growing up, I didn’t know anyone that went to college besides my teachers and coaches within the school. My parents both dropped out of high school, and it was hard for me to realize that my experience would never be like everyone else’s in college. 

It is a privilege that I have made it to college while many people I grew up with did not get the luxury of even thinking about going. Although this has made it extremely difficult to be able to relate to my peers, it is something that has taught me many life lessons.

Going into my freshman year, it hit me extremely fast when I realized that not many people are first-generation students in our society. While there is also a lack of communities for people who are first-generation, many people feel as if there isn’t a place for them.

It took time for me to be able to build a community of people within college. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I felt like I had a community. This was only after I did a lot of work to find the right people for me.

First-generation college students tend to have the understanding that things may not be exactly easy for them going through college, but they do have the understanding of how they can push through the hardships of working hard to accomplish their goals.

I had to learn that I was not going to find my place in college if I did not step out of my comfort zone, and college was essentially all out of my comfort zone. You’re beginning to become an adult, you’re in a new environment, and the people around you all come from different backgrounds. 

It was then that I realized that I need to stop trying to fit people into one certain mold and allow myself to make friendships with people I would have never met if it wasn’t for college. I opened my mind up to new ideas of what significant changes could do for me. 

The best advice I was given when I was going through the hard times of finding my place in college was, “you can compare yourself to others around you, but your situation will only change if you want it to change and if you’re willing to change.” 

This allowed me to think to myself, “what do I want to do with my life, and what are things I have never experienced that I can do for myself?” When I did this, I started to find groups of people who were doing the things that I wanted to do. 

Being able to do simple things like write, make time for myself, or go to the gym, I was able to build a community. Even starting conversations with people in my classes led to getting coffee or doing homework together.

Although your experience may not be the same as people who are not first-generation, it does not mean that you will not have opportunities to create memories that you will cherish. Remember that you get out of college what you put in. 

Understand that not everyone is going to be for you, but know that someone is. It may take time to settle into a new environment, but always being open to new possibilities will help make your time better.

Angelique is a Junior at CU Boulder studying Journalism with a double minor in Business and Communication. In her free time, you can find her looking for a new place to discover in Colorado.
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