One of the hardest things about being a first generation student is often times feeling alone. Coming from a family that did not have any experience with applying to colleges, I essentially had to figure everything out myself. While I did seek out help from my teachers and guidance counselor, I generally did not have a peer who offered me their personal guidance and experience with applying to colleges or life in college, leaving me to feel isolated a majority of the time. Since my time in college, I have tried my best to help high school students from my hometown understand that attending a four-year university is well within their capabilities, academically and financially. One’s environment is often times the most influential component of their future. So, with a lot of high school students in communities where a majority of high school graduates don’t attend college, it can be hard to see the amazing opportunities that colleges can offer. I have tried to personally reach out to high school students and answer any questions they have about applying to and affording college. I feel as if giving personalized mentorship to younger students gives them a realistic understanding of going to college. For example, explaining to students how private and public colleges operate in terms of financial aid to give them a better understanding of how likely they will be able to afford a school. One mistake I made in high school was not knowing the extent standardized test scores had on college admissions. In turn, I have tried to let my mentees grasp the sad reality that test scores can make or break their college acceptances. There are also so many small hardships I have had to overcome while at college that is part of being a first-generation student that my mentees have learned from.
Overall, for a lot of first-generation students, it may feel great when they finally get to college as if they were the one to “make it out” of their hometowns, but it is still important to help and uplift younger members of the same community. I encourage all of my fellow first-generation students in college to reach out to the youth of their home communities and pose as a mentor and inspire other first-generation students to reach their dreams that may seem unattainable.