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Opinion: College decisions difficult to navigate as first-generation student

OWLs helping out students move in to Taylor Tower on move-in day on Aug. 19, 2012.

OWLs helping out students move in to Taylor Tower on move-in day on Aug. 19, 2012. Credit: Lantern file photo

I always knew I wanted to go to college. Despite my love for studying, however, I have never been fully confident in my ability to succeed because of my status as a first-generation college student.

First-generation college students are likely to live off-campus, which causes little social integration and are more likely to drop out of college, according to research on the College Board website.

Furthermore, the website said first-generation college students are shown to be less academically prepared before beginning college compared to their peers.

All these facts are relatable in a sense. I do not live on campus and I work two jobs, which leaves me little time to attend events on campus or get involved.

Furthermore my background has made me feel less able to relate to my fellow college students.

My father is Algerian and my mother is Chinese. My mother was forced to drop out of high school and my father did not attend college because of poverty and war.

Both of my parents have worked hard their entire lives, so for me, college was a no-joke experience. Once I received my acceptance letter, I knew I had to take college seriously because that was my way of being successful and helping to support my family.

I did not really have their support when it came to my anxiety about school because neither of them knew or truly understood what it was like being a college student.

Therefore, I was utterly clueless about college. I remembered seeing my friends confidently discussing their chosen majors and future goals, and I could barely schedule my own classes.

Not only that, but I was also my parents’ prodigy child. I was the child that always had the textbook yanked from my hand because I refused to stop studying.

This only led my parents to believe that I would be the child who would become the successful family doctor. I felt conflicted because deep down, I knew I did not want to be a doctor.

I had to fight this feeling however, and I had to constantly remind myself the reason why I am attending college. I was not here for myself, I was here to help the most important people in my life, which only added more pressure on me.

For my parents, becoming a doctor was the only successful career choice, so I always had the idea ingrained in my mind. Regardless of how much I begged my parents to let me be a writer, they refused to accept my plea.

You see, it was not about just the idea of being successful, it was also about doing something they thought would make me successful. Ever since middle school, I loved to write and putting words on paper came so easy for me. But I couldn’t pursue my dream of becoming a writer because I needed to focus on studying medicine, and I could not disappoint my parents regardless of how much I hated the classes I took.

The true frustration started at the end of Winter Quarter of my freshman year, when my grade point average took a severe plunge. I think that was the worst and probably the best thing that happened to me because I finally gathered enough courage to stand up and tell my parents I would not be a doctor.

Despite persuading them however, they still continued to show me they were not happy and I soon gave up the writer dream and went into nursing school.

It was the next best thing to becoming a doctor, right? Deep down, I still was not happy because I hated what I was doing.

Long story short, it was just an endless circle of frustration for my parents and myself because I could not understand why they could not accept me becoming a writer.

I can sit here and shoot more facts and statistics out, but this is my first semester back after this crazy adventure, and the pressure to succeed does not bother me anymore.

I love what I am doing yet every day I live with this fear of disappointing my parents. I fought so hard to get to this point, and I cannot undo the decisions I made.

It is not just about succeeding, as a first-generation college student. I feel obligated to help my parents because they have worked so hard to provide me with the life they never had.

No pressure, right? I remember a friend once telling me to just do what I love, but do it to the best of my ability, and that is how I will find success.

No matter how much I tried to dismiss their advice however, I knew she was right.

So I am back to where I started, and even though I might never be the doctor my parents hoped for, I am slowly building my confidence in my ability to be a writer. I might be wearing the label of a first-generation student, but I have decided to use it as a motivation to beat the statistics and become something I feel is successful.

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