The struggle and honor of being a first-generation student

The struggle and honor of being a first-generation student

The struggle and honor of being a first-generation student
September 27
14:47 2017

Being a first-generation college student can be a bittersweet experience, especially if you are your parents’ only child. A student can feel as if this large responsibility is placed upon you all at once.

The feeling of honor at being the first from your family to go to college can quickly be overshadowed by the notion of not feeling prepared for the experience. At times it can feel like you are the trailblazer for your family. Everybody is looking to you to fulfill something that has not been done yet and is something to be proud of.

Then you become blind-sided and hit hard when you are finally dropped into the college experience. Applying for financial aid, scholarships and all that comes with registering for college can be overwhelming. It can be tough even with support from family who have done so before.

In cases of not being supported by family at all, a student can especially feel lost. Integrative studies senior Kendra Eakles has overcome this obstacle.

“My mother and stepfather didn’t value education like I do,” Eakles said.  “They didn’t try helping me even get financial aid. My main memory was the first time I tried to fill out college applications, my parents were clueless, so I relied a lot on teachers in high school.”

Filling out financial aid for parents who have never done it before led to roadblocks for Eakles.

“It was so hard,” Eakles said. “My mother refused to put her information in fear that it’d reflect badly on her credit. My stepfather refused as well. I was completely alone in trying to figure out how to get student loans and grants. It’s difficult trying to educate your parents about the importance of these things.”

It can feel like everybody else gets something that you do not because there is so much you have not been prepared for up until this point. That causes a lot of self-doubt, which can translate into your academics and overall experience. Eakles often felt alone. She was perceived as anti-social and had to force herself to open to others.

A lot of students in these circumstances can miss out on the social aspect of networking or knowing where to go to ask for help. UNT has a lot of resources to help students adjust and become well equipped.

The Division of Student Affairs has a list for first-generation college students to utilize. It offers tips on how to navigate through the struggles they often face.

Business sophomore Brooke Roberson is a transfer student. Roberson came to Denton after her freshman year at Louisiana State University.

“When I finally got to college, I was completely overwhelmed with just how much books cost, how much food was and the entire cost of school,” Roberson said. “My mom couldn’t be of any help to me, so I ended up leaving after only a month at LSU.”

Roberson said she was not prepared financially when she started because nobody told her. She assumed college would be something similar to high school.

Now she is a lot more equipped because of the experience and feels that, when she has children, she would be better able to navigate them through the process. College has changed drastically since most students’ parents attended, and most students’ parents may have not even had to attend college.

This can lead to a blind leading the blind situation and gives people a false sense of what college is. College is more than the financial aspect. It is the academics, the living situations and the connections with others as well.

Having the knowledge of the process to get to college and access to the resources to help combat those difficulties should be a top priority for universities in helping students know what they have to do. UNT is doing its part.

Featured illustration by Max Raign

About Author

Jade Jackson

Jade Jackson

Senior Journalism Major

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