A majority of students plan to attend college for four years to receive their bachelor’s degree. The plan sounds simple until they encounter challenges they never thought they would run into. Many first-generation/low-income (FGLI) college students do not experience college the same way a non-first-generation student would.
Michelle Do, a senior at Temple University, encountered many obstacles and had a different experience than what she had in mind when coming to college.
“The transition from high school to college was difficult. During the first term of my freshman year, I took the maximum amount of credits at Temple University, which is eighteen credits. On top of that, I was working two jobs. I failed a class during my first term because I didn’t know taking eighteen credits would be hard to manage,” Do explains.
She wished she had talked to more people in college prior to taking the maximum amount of credits. Through this, she would be able to avoid the rough beginning in her college career and learn from other people's experiences.
As a first-generation college student, it was hard for Do to communicate with her parents about the whole college process. Do felt too overwhelmed living at home and decided to move out during her junior year.
When Do’s parents found out she had taken a semester off, they encouraged her to go back to school. They also offered to help Do pay for her education, so she could focus on her academics.
Not only was it difficult to manage school and work, but Do began to rethink her career path. Do studied early education when she came to college. At the end of her junior year, she decided to change her major to human development.
“Growing up, I knew I wanted to go into early education because I enjoy working with kids. All the teachers at my high school knew it too. I even taught preschoolers while in high school to get classroom experiences. Then on graduation day, I won the future teacher award and thought it was my calling to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized early education wasn’t for me. It felt like I lost my entire identity, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Do says.
Do spoke to her academic advisor to figure out what was the best path for her. She took a few human development courses and enjoyed them a lot more than her early education courses.
Coming into college, Do did not plan to take a semester off or change her career path last minute. She put her mental health first and made decisions based on what she thought was right for her. Although Do will not be graduating on time, she was able to figure out her career path.
As you read stories of other students’ college experiences, you will realize that the “perfect” college experience is unrealistic. Many FGLI students aren’t privileged to dedicate a hundred percent of their time to their academics to succeed. Everyone faces different challenges in life and has their own unique story of how they made it.