You’ve made the decision to pursue a college degree. You’re eager to become the first one in your family to graduate from college, but that fact makes the process of going to college even more daunting for you. Unlike your peers, you may not have many people in your life who you can talk to about applications, finances, and everything in-between. It’s up to you to figure it out.
I know how that feels, because I’ve been there. I’m now halfway through my college degree, pursuing a career in a field that I love, but two years ago I was in the same position as you. As you start thinking about everything you have to figure out before even starting your new journey, you might feel overwhelmed or even hopeless. From my perspective now, as a junior in college, let me tell you right off the bat: the extra effort to apply to college is completely worth it. I urge you to believe in yourself and your abilities. You owe it to yourself to pursue your passion and better your life. To do so, it’s important not to let yourself or anyone else stop you.
Your Future is Yours, So It’s Up to You to Take Control
No matter how much we might want good things to fall into our laps, that’s not how the world works. I know this is a cliché that you’ve heard many times before, but, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can do just about anything you set your mind to. Do not let misinformation or other people’s unjustified warnings stop you from achieving your goals.
No one is going to make you do the research, spend hours on applications, or take care of your finances. It’s something you must be willing to make sacrifices for, which is why it’s important to remember that you have to put in the work to accomplish your goals. The odds may be stacked against you right now, but if there’s a burning desire in you to succeed, to live the life you’ve been dreaming of, you can and will make it happen.
Seek Out Resources that Will Help You Apply to College
When applying to college, many students rely on their parents and/or other family members for advice, but as a first-generation student, you sometimes don’t have that luxury, so you must seek it out yourself. The internet - even if you have to go to the library to use it - will be your best friend. You can use the internet for researching schools and scholarships, as well as completing online applications. If you have access to a guidance counselor, talk to them and take the numerous fliers available in their office. Talk to teachers. Visit college admissions and financial aid offices, if you can. The resources are out there, you just have to seek them out.
Finances Are Tough, But It’s Possible
Do not let finances stop you from going to college.
Even if you don’t come from a limited-income family, college is super expensive. From tuition to books, housing, food… it’s daunting to even think about. However, there are many ways to help fund your college experience. If you’re careful about planning your finances, you can even get your entire tuition paid for by scholarships, grants, and Federal Financial Aid. If you come from a low-income household, there are resources that you may not even know about unless you ask people familiar with the higher education system. For example, you can ask to have your application fees waived. On college websites, you can find resources like on-campus food pantries for students who can’t afford groceries. Use resources like these to learn about your options. Before you decide which college to apply to, make sure you take note of how much aid you might get at each school. However, you won’t always know your financial aid package until after you apply. If there’s a school that you’re interested in, don’t let finances stop you from applying until you know how much aid you could get. If it does end up costing too much, you can always turn down the offer.
When you finally reach the light at the end of the tunnel and decide where to spend the next few months or years of your life, remember all these hardships. Cherish the moment you commit to your school and bask in the light of the huge accomplishment that it is. Remember that you could have just said it’s too difficult—or impossible—and given up before you started. But you didn’t. You’ve worked hard to start building the future you want, and, while the work may not be over yet, it’s a great jump start.