My Challenges as a First-Generation College Student

I am the baby of my immediate family, but the first to take the leap to attend college. I can't remember when I decided I was going to college, it was just a given. My parents encouraged it, but never made me think I was being forced. Going to college was just a natural step for my education. Now I'm in my last semester, about to receive my BSBA. Looking back, the road to where I am now was not so easy. There was a lot of adjustment being the first one in my family to go to college.

Not only was going to college a new step for me because I was leaving high school behind, but it was a completely unfamiliar territory for my family as well. All of my friends' parents had attended some sort of higher education, and I always felt like I should have been able to say the same. I was almost ashamed until I gained so much confidence going through this entire college experience.

My Parents Didn't Have the Experience to Give Advice

My parents want the best for me, but neither attended college, so how was I to expect them to know anything about the process? I spent a lot of time on the Internet searching schools, future careers, and majors and talking with my guidance counselor. I was fortunate enough to attend a small private high school where an extra push was provided, but still, I did a lot on my own to figure out the steps to get into a college.

My tip: Whether you are at a small or big high school, your guidance counselors are there, don't be shy and take advantage of their information and help. Also, ask around, friend's parents, other family members, someone out there has the answers to your questions.

FAFSA... What?

One of the most frustrating obstacles I have had to overcome every year has been filling out the FAFSA forms. My parents are not tech savvy, nor were they familiar with FAFSA or the process. I took on the challenge to figure out what this whole FAFSA deal was about. As independent as I was becoming, I still couldn't do it on my own. All because my age says I am an adult, I still needed to provide my parents' information since I am their dependent. It wasn't easy, but I did it all four years.

My tip: Have patience, read around, it can be done; it just takes some time to figure out. And make sure to start early, that way you have time to deal with any hiccups. (Trust me, they happen)

Paying for College

Something I wished I looked into more before attending college is scholarships. I just assumed I wouldn't get them, which was not a good strategy to have. Just apply, you never know!

I can now say I have experience of getting student loans. Applying for loans was always my second dreaded task. I never took out a loan before, and without one there was no college. I had no idea which loans to trust, what interest rates to take, or what my best options were. Again, I took the leap, found as much information as I could and realized this: It is all a learning process, learn as you go, don't let uncertainties stop you.

Why Being the First is Actually the Best

Four years ago, I would have told you it was awful being the first in my family to attend college (besides the fact that my family was super proud) because I felt more lost than my peers in this college process. Now, I can say being the first to attend college has been a great experience for me.

There is nothing wrong with this, but I know friends whose parents filled out their FAFSA, took care of all the finances, and took a lot of lead in their college experience. Help is always great, but by being the first, I gained much confidence in myself and took my independence a step further than I see some of my peers. Everyone grows differently, but if you are a first, take pride, work hard, and do not fear the leap!