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How The Academic Advancement Program Helped Me Through College

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Austin Lin, a recent graduate from Villanova University, wanted to share his college experience as a first-generation/low-income (FGLI) student.

Photo by Wix.

Growing up, Austin always knew he wanted to go into a career path that helps people. He volunteered at the University of Pennsylvania hospital to gain hands-on experience during his junior year. The opportunity eventually led Austin to pursue nursing.

Austin decided to attend Villanova University because of its fantastic nursing program. On top of that, he was one of the few applicants chosen to participate in the Academic Advancement Program (AAP). AAP helps underrepresented students succeed in college by offering academic and financial support to students in the program.

Photo by Maggie Mengel.

"During college, I was struggling in two classes and had to withdrawal from them. I was lucky enough to be in the program because they helped pay $6,000 for me to retake those classes. Also, if I needed textbooks, AAP would help pay for them," Austin says.

Although Austin had the opportunity to be a part of AAP, he experienced other challenges throughout college. Austin, Asian-American, struggled to embrace his culture at a predominately white school during his first two college years.

"Sometimes when my parents call me, my first thought is, where am I going to go? I always go outside or go into a different room to talk to my parents. But after a while, I was comfortable speaking Chinese on the phone in front of my friends because I realized they didn't care. It was just the beginning of college and I felt the need to fit in," Austin explains.

As a first-generation student, Austin knew most of his peers didn't have the same challenges as him. On top of school, he had responsibilities to help his parents at home during the school year. "My parents don't speak English and I would have to go back home to bring them to the doctors to help translate or to the DMV to renew their licenses. Technology is advancing where you can do everything online, but I didn't have that option during college," Austin says.

Austin enjoyed his college experience at Villanova and the only thing he would change about his experience is to ask for help.

Photo by Maggie Mengel.

"I wish to ask for help earlier in terms of being a minority in college. In high school, students don't usually ask teachers for help. I wished I went to my professors for help when I was struggling in my classes," Austin explains.

Austin got through college by having a positive mindset. Instead of saying "I have class" in a negative tone, he was grateful to be able to attend college. The challenges in college were just obstacles to him and he told himself that it was just temporary. Austin tried to remind himself what the end goal was and that kept him going.

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