When I was younger, say primary school, it never occurred to me that some people didn’t go to college. Even though none of my role models had a degree I wasn’t aware that there were paths in life that didn’t involve spending any extra 2, 4, or more years after high school graduation continuing school. When the idea of college came up I always knew I would go. While my parents have always been wonderfully supportive, in the beginning I spent a lot of time figuring things out on my own. The entire process of researching, finding, applying and attending a university was completely foreign to all the family I would normally seek assistance from. When you don’t have a lot to guide you, it forces you to become very proactive in your education.
However, I do not feel I was burdened by lacking a background from which to build my future, but rather privileged to start from scratch and create my own future. It is because I am first generation that my family didn’t have pre-existing ideas on where I should go, what I should study, or what kind of career I should strive for—I could make all those decisions without preconceptions. I never felt pressured to go or study something I didn’t care for, and knew that whatever I did I was doing for me, not to appease someone else.
It can be hard trying to sort through mounds of colleges on your own, and if you are anything like me you want to know exactly how everything will happen. I started my college quest when I was in the 8th grade, looking through college search engines and scouring every piece of information I could from their website and information packets. I checked out college handbooks at the library, met with an advisor at my high school, and went to every college fair within a 50 mile radius of my hometown. If there was a college for me, I was determined to find it.
I think my lack of knowledge in the beginning of my college search has ultimately benefited me. I know how to take action when I need to, how to advocate for myself, and most importantly not be intimidated by a task that at first seems too daunting to tackle. I am not afraid to dive head first into a problem because I know it is in my capacity to achieve, as I have proven myself time and again. Successfully making my way to the University of Washington is something that still feels unreal when I look back to where I began, but I know it is my hard work that put me here. As first generation students, we know more intimately that it is our ambition and determination that will take us places we never expected to be.