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Life > Experiences

My Experience as a First-Generation College Student

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

I’m almost done with my second year of college, which also means that I’m halfway to graduation. As a first-generation college student, I’ve experienced a plethora of highs and lows during my time. Between financial struggles and finding groups where I feel like I belong, I’ve had to navigate my way through this new journey in life and, although it’s been tough at times, I’ve gained great lifelong skills.

One of the difficulties I’ve experienced as a first-generation college student is having to work part-time while also being a full-time student. It’s very rewarding to be making my own income, but sometimes it can be challenging to balance school with both of my jobs. Since I have a single mother who’s raising my little brother at home, finding a job while in school was a must. It can be challenging to be surrounded by other students who don’t need to work or who come from families of more wealth, but I’ve learned that there are just as many students in the same boat as me who are on a similar path. I also feel that having my own money and mostly supporting myself has really helped me with managing my finances. As a recently-twenty-year-old, this is the best time to get in the habit of saving. 

A high I’ve experienced as a first-generation college student is recognizing my sense of independence. Coming to college was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. My mind would race with panicked thoughts about pretty much anything and everything that could go wrong. I didn’t think I’d be able to be on my own – let alone in a big city – and, well, survive. Now, I brave the subway systems by myself and try to do more things alone. I’ve tried a lot of new things and I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own company. 

Another low I experienced was finding a sense of belonging. It can be challenging to feel comfortable around people who come from families who are more familiar with the college experience. I spent a lot of time with many different groups of people, especially during my first semester of freshman year. At times, it was hard to feel like I fit in with a lot of the people I met, but I did gain a lot of social skills during this process. Though my family was a tremendous support, I still found that I had to navigate a lot of the journey myself and learn more by doing. It may have been intimidating and scary at times, but it also aided in building my sense of independence.

Through ups and downs, one positive thing I can undoubtedly say is that having support makes this experience so much easier. It can be a lot to try to handle the many highs and lows of being a first-generation college student, and having help along the way can make it a much smoother experience. Although I’m only halfway through my experience, I’ve already learned so much, and instead of feeling fearful about what the future holds, I’ve become excited to see where this journey takes me. It’s intimidating to be the first person in your family to do the college process, but it’s a rewarding experience nonetheless.

Brynn Theurer is a sophomore at Pace University, with this also being her second year in the Her Campus chapter. She enjoys contributing to the club by writing articles about different topics, ranging from activities to do around the city to entertainment, including new music and books. Aside from publishing articles for Her Campus, Brynn is currently a sophomore majoring in English, Language, and Literature with a minor in Journalism and Digital Storytelling. She enjoys contributing to HerCampus as it helps prepare her for her desired career of journalism. In her free time, Brynn enjoys surrounding herself with friends and family, going to the gym, and reading new books. She is a music fanatic and is almost always watching “Friends” when given the chance. She also enjoys the occasional shopping spree, and of course she enjoys writing whenever able. A fun fact about Brynn is that she currently has seventeen tattoos and twelve piercings, and plans to get more throughout her life.