Six years ago, I made the decision that I would not attend college.
I made the decision that a higher education was not for me, and that even if I wanted to pursue a higher education, I was not smart or confident enough to do so.
Today, I am a rising sophomore and honors student at the University of Texas at San Antonio, double majoring in sociology and communication. I love and value my education more than anything, and every day I feel privileged to be able to learn and grow.
I doubted myself for many reasons. One of these reasons was the fact that I identify as a first-generation college student. Both of my parents did not go to college, and I often wondered if I had the skills and resources I needed to attend and graduate a four-year university.
So much of the college application process was foreign to me and my family. My biggest inspiration in life, my mom, never had the opportunity to finish her education and as a result couldn’t guide me through the nuances of the college application process.
More than anything, though, I also felt challenged by my own thoughts. I felt challenged by the pressure I put on myself as a first-generation college student. I wanted to manage perfect grades and several extra-curricular activities all while trying to manage the financial aspect of a college education. I wanted to feel good enough, like I could get through the next four years. Many nights, I felt like giving up.
I have a notebook in my room and on the top of the page, I have written, “The number of times I have felt like dropping out of college.” Every time I feel like dropping out, I mark the page. Since my freshman year, I have added over twenty marks.
While this may sound discouraging, I am extremely inspired by this. It is a reminder that even when I want to drop out, I keep going.
This past summer, I was a First-Generation College Student Fellow. It is a program that gives first-generation students the opportunity to live and work in Washington, DC. Having this opportunity and getting to connect with the other fellows was absolutely life-changing.
I share all of this because it is important to realize that you are never alone in your educational journey. Even as a first-generation student, you have a family and community behind you. There is always support.
My mom, my school, and my community have supported me through every step of my educational journey. Programs like the First Generation College Student Fellowship gave me the opportunities and training I need to move forward. I continue to move forward everyday. I hope to someday maybe even attend graduate school. The possibilities are truly endless. For the first time, I truly believe I can do this.