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Pros and Cons of Being a First-Generation College Student

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People immigrate to the United States with hope of a better life, including me and my family. Although this cultural and environmental change can be difficult for parents, it also falls on the shoulders of kids who have to go to school and prepare themselves for a career. Many immigrant students experience this difficulty because most of them have parents who have not had the opportunity for higher education in their birth countries. 

First-generation students are defined as students whose parents did not complete a four-year college or university degree. This can shape the lives of first-generation students because they need to figure out college without the parental guidance and college expertise that most students have. 

I am a first-generation student who came from Cuba at a young age [I’d put a specific number]. My parents did not have the opportunity for proper education and that was the main reason for their immigration to the United States. They wanted my sister and me to have all the opportunities that they never had. Being a first-generation student has its benefits. Firstly, there’s more consideration for financial aid, such as scholarships and grants. Secondly, there’s satisfaction in creating a path from nothing, which has helped me develop essential skills such as perseverance and work ethic. Thirdly, there’s pride in being the first in my family to obtain a university degree, and it showcases my years of dedication and hard work. That also becomes my motivation to succeed. 

On the other hand, being a first-generation student has its difficulties, such as not knowing the process to apply for schools/financial aid, the pressure of succeeding and the disadvantages of not knowing what to expect. Not having a guide or someone to help you apply for school/financial aid can be a hardship. I remember how hard it was for me to complete the FAFSA application. I had to help my parents create their information and then create mine. I also didn’t know what to expect when coming to college. I knew nothing about rubrics, writing papers or any of the other requirements that needed to be met. We also have so much pressure to succeed because we want to make our parents proud. When we remember all the sacrifices they have made, such as leaving their families and friends behind and starting a new life, we know that failure is not an option. I have tried my best in everything because it always felt as if my parents were counting on me. 

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Although being a first-generation student can be seen as a victory in an immigrant family, it comes with many issues that only first-generation students understand. However, the difficulty of handling college without parental guidance prepares us for life because it gives us resilience and assurance that we can overcome anything when we work hard. 

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