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An Open Letter to the First Generation College Student

Dear First Generation College Student,

Being a first generation college student has its ups and downs.

It’s the pressure that drives you insane as if you have to succeed in order to prove yourself to everyone.

It’s the mindset you acquire that have to be the best because you are the first to do it since your mother and father could not. And at times you want to give up, but that thought just drags on in the back of your mind, “I am the first, I have to succeed..”

So let me be one to motivate you during those rough times because you are not alone.

I know what the pressure feels like when you think no one understands the personal struggles you go through as a first generation student. But let me tell you this, don’t give up.

Trust me I know this, I’m just the same as you.

My mother and father both didn’t take this opportunity, and my two sisters weren’t motivated enough to. It’s as if it was up to me to break this barrier to show them that hey, one of us can graduate with a degree and not work so hard to provide for our family like my mother and father have to. But there are times when I want to give up too and just leave this place without looking back, and then here comes that voice deep inside my head, “I am the first, I have to succeed.”

I do trip up, I fall sometimes, but this is just only the beginning of a journey that was destined for me.

I knew I went to college for a purpose not just for me or my parents’ sake, but because I wanted to make difference in this world with the power of my knowledge that only college could provide for me

So whatever your purpose is, do it. It’s not going to come as easy as you would like.  

My purpose and yours may be completely different but we have to remember one thing we all have in common: this opportunity we were given is something that many are unfortunate not to have. There are people that want to be in our shoes and be something better than what they are expected to be in society. This is a privilege, but not one handed to us just because. We have worked our way to this moment, why should we stop now?

College is not easy.

We are going to trip up sometimes, maybe even fall a little more than we imagined. We are going to want to cry to our mothers and fathers and tell them how we can’t do it anymore and understand why they didn’t take the opportunity when it was granted to them. But the truth is we can.

These trips and falls are lessons meant only for us. They are there to make us stronger and more wiser so that we won’t slip up again. It’s to help us, not bring us down. And when we do manage to fall,  we have to get backup and stride to success better than we have before.

It’s not just me and you, there’s millions of us today that are going through the same thing, but we can’t give up because failure is so much less than all of us. We all have bright futures ahead and so many other opportunities to conquer. This is just the start.

We stand together, not alone.

Look at how many people are rooting for us to succeed and to make society a better place for more generations to come. We are inspiration, an example that anything is possible. We have to pull this thing around and keep striding until the end. But when we are in doubt, and those trying thoughts do continue to keep pouring in, we just have to remember those seven words sitting in the back of our heads, “We the first, we have to succeed.”



Bri Hayes

George Mason University '20

Brianna "Bri" Hayes is a Community Health, pre-nursing student from Richmond, Virginia studying at George Mason University with a strong passion for editorial and journalistic writing. Brianna spent her whole high school career studying communications and media relations under a broad spectrum, including experience in journalism, public relations and marketing, videography, film and production, graphic design, and photography. At Mason, she’s the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and a member of various organizations including the Omicron Iota Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Patriot Activities Council, the Akoma Circle Mentoring Group, and Student Involvement. In her spare time, Brianna likes to read and explore new places and things. After graduation, she hopes to fulfill a career in nursing and public health.
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