The struggles of being a first-generation student


Mesa Office of Communications

Growing up as a first-generation college student has its challenges and struggles.

Jennifer Aguilar, Editor-in-Chief

   Growing up in a Mexican household, with parents who did not go to college, it was hard to realize that other people had their parents’ experiences to help and guide them. Growing up as a first-generation college student has its challenges and struggles.

   The term “first-generation,” did not exist in my vocabulary or cross my mind until my senior year of high school, and I was still doubtful that I was even considered one, due to the fact that my brother went to college. It wasn’t until one of my friends convinced me that in fact I was a first-generation student and everything clicked. 

   No wonder it was so hard for me to ask for help. No wonder I could not get help from my parents. No wonder I felt like I didn’t fit in within the educational system. The educational system is broken. For 12 years I was scared to ask for help because I felt like I was considered dumb and if I did ask questions, I felt judged and sometimes even laughed at. Teachers did not understand what it was like to learn everything by myself. They did not understand how hard it was to assimilate to the American educational system when all I was taught was my Mexican culture and roots. At a very young age, I had to learn English at school while speaking Spanish at home to my parents. 

   It was so hard to learn that it is necessary to ask for help sometimes, especially when you are taught at such a young age to “work hard, work hard, work hard,” in order to achieve that American dream. My parents taught me not to show emotion. If you do, you are considered weak, which potentially led me to have a hard time being vulnerable. In reality, crying is the best thing ever.  

   When it came down to FAFSA, scholarships, and other kinds of financial aid, I was clueless. For all, I knew FAFSA could have been a new band. Trying to figure out everything because of my parents’ lack of college experience was tough.

 To this day I don’t have everything figured out. It is a struggle to grasp the idea of how far I have come along in my academic journey and my personal journey. 

   Now that I am transferring to San Diego State in fall 2022 it is up to me to create that pathway for my future generations and establish my legacy. I am just starting my journalism career and it has been a complete roller coaster, filled with happy joyful moments, but also stressful ones with lots of tears. 

   To all the first-generation students out there: I feel you and I see you. You can do this. Don’t give up because it will all be worth it in the end. It will be okay and it is okay to take a break sometimes. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just like me, you are also paving the way for future first-generation college students and establishing your legacy.