Advice To My First Generation College Students

This is for my friend who wanted advice for his first year. I realized that he may not be the only one. I wanted to write something meaningful and helpful to you and students like you. I did not want to write the easy things like bring a pen, come on time, and remember to always respect everyone’s time.

I wanted to share some of the things I learned during my undergraduate career to the incoming class of 2017 first-generation students of color. As a recent graduate I wanted to write a list of things to remember or know that were important.

Learn to tell your story then own it.
Own your experiences, your past, and your identity. Nothing is more powerful then someone who knows who they are, where they came from, and where they want to go. Your experiences are also valuable and add truth to your argument, truths that you have lived.

You are enough.
You’ll meet people who are doing amazing things, who’ll make you feel small and you’ll compare yourself to them. I won’t tell you not to because it’s inevitable. I will tell you though, to remember that you are enough, your efforts, your work, and more importantly your existence is enough.

Your mental health is a priority. 
Sometimes mental health means therapy other times it means taking a break or learning to say no. Listen to your body and know that your life is a priority and your health a necessity.

Speak tf up for what you believe in
Thanks @Twitter for that one. Speak and then pursue the things you believe in are.

There will be words and people that hurt you.
People who won’t always understand you or be willing to listen. Know that this does not make your feelings invalid. This also doesn’t mean you have to spend your time educating them, it is about reclaiming your time and valuing yourself enough to respect how you feel and when it is necessary to disengage.

You will always know what is right for you, even when other people tell you that you are wrong.
You may question your decisions but know there aren’t wrong ones, you’ll do what is best for you. 

Your time is valuable. Reclaim it.
During an internship interview, I was told that they knew my time is limited and for that, they understand the experiences I want to have should be worth the trouble. They made me feel important and realize that I should value my worth. So, don’t be afraid to own up to it.

Use your knowledge to build your community up.
A formal education is a privilege that not everyone has the opportunity to receive. Use that privilege to bring people up, use it to make a difference in your community. You don’t need to wait until you have the diploma, you can use your formal and informal education now.

Know what is going on in the world.
Read the daily brief from the New York Times or other news outlets, or listen to a morning podcast. Whether you do this while eating breakfast or on your way to class stay up to date with what is going on in the world.

Paid internships #PayOurInterns.
Internships are important, but being paid to do one is also important. Get out of the safe campus bubble and do as many paid internships as you can and show the world what you have to offer– you’ll be surprised just how much that is.

College won’t be easy.

The classes, the finances, the workload, the expectations people have of you, the pressure you put on yourself, and how society makes it an individual accomplishment. Know that you don’t have to do it alone. find friends who support you, find family who helps you, and find at least one office or space on campus that makes you feel welcomed.

Learn to take breaks. 
You will face an immense amount of pressure to make your parents sacrifice “worth it.” Remember though that you being on campus is worth it. Know that you are allowed to have fun and take breaks. You deserve time to yourself. 

No amount of advice will ever prepare you enough, but it’s always good to be prepared even if things don’t end up as planned.

Lastly, never let anyone clip your wings or stop you from accomplishing your goals. You were born to fly. You were born to fly, remind yourself of this when you feel broken. Remind your friends during finals and when you most question yourself. From one first generation college graduate to a future one, you are going to make it through, and you’ll find your place; be patient with your process. Enjoy it as much as you can, and have a phenomenal first year.

–Ciriac Isbeth.

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