What it’s like being a First-Gen College Student

Being a college student is stressful, add being a first-generation college student and that stress is amplified. Having to go through the process of filling out applications, without really knowing what to put and having no one to walk you through the process, can be very difficult and at times discouraging. This added with the expectations your family has for you, can make your college experience feel complicated. 

I’m a first-generation college student and I can say that although it can be very overwhelming, it’s a great feeling making your family and loved ones proud. When I first applied to college, I had absolutely no idea what the process was like or what was needed. I had some help from friends who were already in school, but every university’s process is different. 

The first university I attended was Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the process of me applying for attendance and scholarships probably took me a few months. This was mainly because I had to keep going back to my high school to get my transcripts and honestly, the process was so overwhelming and confusing I had to take a step back before I lost my sanity. 

I finally got to University and started in the Fall of 2018. Trinity was an amazing school, however the commute to D.C. 5 days a week wasn’t. I was working part-time and commuting almost an hour everyday using the metro and bus. I spent a lot on transportation costs, and although I met amazing professors and classmates there, I knew I couldn’t keep doing this for another three years. 

I transferred to my local community college which made my life a little easier. However, the stresses of being a first-gen student were still dominant. My parents weren’t aware of the difficulty of my classes, and they couldn’t understand the stress of working and going to school everyday of the week. Fast forward two years, I graduated with my associates and transferred to Mason to complete my bachelors. 

My transfer to Mason was a difficult time. Compared to the first two colleges I went to, Mason was considerably a larger university. I decided I wanted to be involved in campus life and went out for sorority recruitment. All the while, I started working full-time at my job due to being short staffed. It was incredibly stressful and I would break down to my boyfriend more times than I could count. 

Eventually, I got accustomed to life at Mason. I commuted 30 minutes everyday and would find shortcuts to get to campus quicker. Being part of Greek life helped me to network with sisters who took classes I was currently taking and that helped my grades improve. My parents finally started to understand the stress of being in college and trying to finish my degree while working a full-time supervisor position. 

My college experience has definitely had its ups and downs. There were times I wanted to completely give up especially when I had no one in my family to relate to. It helped having close friends to vent to about this kind of stuff. Mason also has multiple resources for first-generation students to help adjust to college life. 

My advice to first-gen students, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Have a solid support system in place for when you need to vent or cry it out. I know it feels like you’re doing it all alone, but you’re not. Have fun, enjoy college, and make the best out of the most exciting time of your life.