Navigating college as a first-generation student was difficult. College was not what I expected and despite getting a full ride (which I’m very grateful for) I still struggled when navigating the structure of the university, financial aid, networking, imposter syndrome, etc. Having recently completed my Masters program in Information Systems and being enrolled in a PhD program, I have learned a lot that I hope can help others in their journeys.
I knew I was working towards something monumental for myself and my family, but I simultaneously had to deal with the guilt I felt for not being closer to my family and for having a hard time navigating college far away from home. Many of my family members, teachers, and peers encouraged me to apply to college and attend, but no one told me what it would really be like when I got there. I simply didn’t have any “social capital” or financial resources like many of my fellow college students while attending a predominantly white institution (PWI). I also had to take a break from school due to health complications, which all of a sudden made my path what people called “non-traditional.” I have since realized that no one college journey is the same and whether you finish college in two years at 13 or in 13 years at 50, your path is your own. No one should feel shame for taking a break, going to community college, going part-time, going to a trade school, or whatever else they choose to do! Whatever works for you financially, geographically, mentally, emotionally (insert other -ly words), is what you should work towards. In my time working in industry and in my masters program I met lots of people who went from community college to four-year schools, went to school later in life, took breaks, and everything else in between. They each had valuable insights and perspectives that added not only to my educational and professional experiences, but my life overall.
As the eldest daughter in an immigrant household, I know a thing or two about outside pressure to succeed (self-imposed pressure too). It’s important to remember what YOU want throughout your college journey, as well as who you do it for. Be it family, children, and/or yourself!
(If you asked me what I would be when I grew up
I would’ve never said a full ride recipient/PhD student)
Some potentially helpful info on free/low cost resources and scholarships I gathered below. *Disclaimer* This information is meant for educational purposes only.
Links were all live at the time of posting.
Free & Low Cost Resources:
Microsoft Teams: https://bit.ly/3jgDgZQ
Online meeting platform great for collaborating with group members, sharing files, co-editing documents and presentations!
Download Microsoft Office 365 and Other Tools: https://bit.ly/34Fb7qY
Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel, OneNote, etc. Have one central hub for your educational journey!
Create graphics for presentations and projects for free
Free online writing assistant that provides corrections as you type.
Google Data Studio: https://datastudio.google.com/u/0/navigation/reporting
Free data visualization tool to create reports.
Collaboration software for keeping track of deadlines, assigning tasks, and reporting project updates.
Open Textbook Library: https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks
Free, openly-licensed textbooks that students can access.
APA citation machine: https://www.citationmachine.net/
Audiobooks and Ebooks:
Note: These are just a handful of the scholarships out there. Be sure to check Fastweb for others you may be eligible for. Also reach out to your financial aid office (even after receiving an award offer) to see if any more aid is available to you.
FASTWEB: (Scholarship Matching Service) https://www.fastweb.com/
Latinos in Technology Scholarship: https://www.siliconvalleycf.org/scholarships/lit
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers: https://scholarships.shpe.org/students/
Hispanic Scholarship Fund: https://www.hsf.net/scholarship
NAACP Scholarships: https://www.naacp.org/naacp-scholarships/
Asian Pacific Fund: https://asianpacificfund.org/what-we-do/scholarships/apply-for-scholarship/
NBCUniversal Scholarship (Media): https://www.lnesc.org/nbcuniversal-scholarship
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC): https://lulac.org/programs/education/scholarships/
Google Scholarships: https://buildyourfuture.withgoogle.com/scholarships/
Grace Hopper Scholarship: https://ghc.anitab.org/2020-student-academic/scholarships/
Thanks so much for reading! If you’re interested in chatting about my specific experience as a full ride recipient, tips for applying to scholarships, or navigating life as a first gen student comment below or if you’re a student interested in mentorship email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org