The Rewards and Challenges of Being a First-Generation Student
What is a first-generation student? To say it simply, it means that neither of your parents obtained a post-secondary degree. I want to share my experience with you as a first-generation student myself.
Neither of my parents pursued post-secondary studies. On my mother’s side my great grandfather, a great aunt and a few second cousins have attended post-secondary and on my father’s side my grandpa, grandma, and uncle pursued college. My uncle even went to King’s for a couple years! Other than those family members, I am the first in my immediate family. Having the opportunity to study beyond the high school level has been rewarding and challenging at the same time.
1: Exploring Post-Secondary Life
Since I had no pre-conceptions about what university life was going to be like, I was able to explore campus life and classes with so much freedom. I got to enter courses and extracurriculars at a pace I was comfortable with and find new passions that I didn’t know I had. Having very little connection to King’s allowed me to come in fresh, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In my past four years I have been involved in many clubs, organizations, and student worker positions which have all let me flourish into a whole new person!
Anyone who has attended or is planning to attend post-secondary should be extremely proud of themselves. It is a big step in your academic and personal life. Having the opportunity to go to university has given me the opportunity to be proud of myself, because I was able to see how capable I am if I put my mind and soul into something. I love being able to go to family functions and be asked how university is going and what I am currently learning because I get to share my knowledge with other members of my family.
While there is lots to celebrate, there are also some challenging aspects to being a first-generation student that I had to overcome:
I feel like a have a lot of pressure to uphold excellent grades and school involvement. Since I am the first in my family, I sometimes think I have to show a good example to my younger siblings and cousins of a successful university student. The pressure affects my confidence at times and often will make me think I am not doing enough, or my grades are not good enough. That is not true though! Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and like I said earlier, going to university is amazing all in its own, you should be proud of yourself and all that you are accomplishing.
2: Support (Though I do get lots!)
Do not get me wrong, I have an immense amount of support from my family and I am so grateful for that. However, because my parents do not have post-secondary backgrounds, occasionally I feel I don’t have anyone to talk to about my struggles or my successes. I still let my family know all those things, but I never know if they fully comprehend my achievements or my challenges I am having since they do not have the same experiences to relate to. I try my best to let them know how significant a GPA standing is, what “with distinction” means, and what new passions and interests I am learning about and engaging in. They support my choice 100% and love to hear updates, which I am grateful for.
If you are a first-generation student, congratulations on choosing the path of post-secondary, it is an exciting time! If you are ever uncertain about anything along the way, King’s has many people who are eager to help you succeed. Enjoy this new part of your life!