This article was originally written for, now a part of

Pressure. A single word with a powerful meaning.

As a first-generation college student, pressure was a big part of my life. In ninth grade, I felt completely alone. I looked around, and I saw many people from my community; however, few shared in my dreams for success. I didn’t allow this to discourage me, though; on the contrary, it inspired me to push forward and make things happen for myself.

The struggle to resist this pressure is real. It creeps up on you whenever others deem you “exceptional” or impose an impossible array of expectations on you. It hurts because there is tremendous pressure for you to meet those expectations (or worse, surpass them!).

Pressure leads to stress, which can show up as either positive or negative – the choice is yours. Often, people will express how proud they are of you; they may even offer suggestions on how to elevate your greatness.

My challenge for you is to take it all in, but realize that the expectations of others don’t have to be your own. You’re free to set your own expectations. So choose your next move wisely. And remember, giving in to pressure, along with the associated fear of letting others down, will only stand in the way of your true greatness.

Focus on what you can control. There is power in how you think and control yourself.

Life is full of pressure, and it comes at you in many ways and forms. But one thing is always constant – it’s up to you to choose how you handle it.

The next time you feel overwhelmed and under pressure, ask yourself:

  1. Is this worth getting upset over?
  2. Is this causing me stress?
  3. Why am I allowing this to bother me?

Here are a few more tips to help keep the pressure at bay:

  1. Talk with your family about how you feel.
  2. Talk to your family about college and how it makes you feel.
  3. Choose your own outcomes.

Most of all, remember that your college experience matters most to you.