Being a First-Generation College Student

Trevon Tellor, Contributor


was incredibly excited to get accepted to Augsburg when I was a senior in high school. I felt like I had made it. I had finally achieved the goal I’d had since I was five. My mother and family were all ecstatic as I was the first one in my family to go to college. I had visions of drinking coffee with my laptop open at coffee shops and fun weekends with friends. 

While these visions did come true and my first month of Augsburg was amazing, I failed to envision what it would be like to walk an unknown path with little support. I was comfortable with the academic setting, but I had the strange idea that I had to be perfect to make it in this environment; any imperfection would end my college career and send me back to where I started. When I got a low score on a paper, I began to have feelings of self-doubt: Did I belong here? Did I get in by mistake? A low score on one assignment may not have been devastating to most people, but to me, it meant that I was not perfect. Clearly, I was overreacting, but I faced the enormous pressure of being the first in my family to go to college.

After gaining my composure three days later, I decided to go back to my therapist. It was another two months until I could get back in with her, but when I did and explained my situation, she introduced me to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is defined by the Harvard Business Review as, “Feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evidence of success,” which was exactly what I had been feeling.

It is important for all of us, especially first-generation college students, to not weigh ourselves down with unnecessary pressure. The fact that I am a first-generation student should have been enough evidence for me to realize that I was succeeding. However, I was not looking at the big picture; I was merely staring down the road that I was just trying to keep barreling along. If there is one word of advice I have for other first generation college students dealing with these kinds of emotions, it is to breathe, take a step back and recognize how far you have come. Remember, if you can get yourself here, you can do it.

This article was originally published in the September 27, 2019 issue.