The college admissions process can be daunting. As a high school junior, talk about college follows me everywhere I go—from school to socially distanced gatherings to family dinners. Besides the fact that I have no idea where I want to go, I am also stressed because I have no one to consult with. As a child of immigrants, I have the unique experience of being the first generation in my family to attend college in America. I have had to navigate the college process on my own without the guidance or knowledge others often take for granted.
My parents emigrated from Ireland in the mid-80s. Without any connections or money, my mom and dad made it a priority to become successful in “the land of opportunity.” My dad completed his bachelor’s degree in Ireland and earned a Master’s in Business Administration in the United States. My mom received a bachelor’s degree in the US as well. But even with some American college experience, my parents struggled to comprehend the process of getting admitted into college as a high schooler in the US. Extracurricular activities, community service, standardized test scores, and a good grade point average are a world of difference in comparison to the all-deciding Leaving Cert test my parents completed to gain admittance to university.
As the oldest child, I am also expected to trail blaze a path for my siblings by gaining acceptance to a prestigious university. The pressure I put on myself builds as I remember how much money, time, and effort my parents have sacrificed in order to put me in this position of opportunity.
As a result, I have inherited the hard-working attitude my parents have preached all my life. This ability to self-motivate has helped me in school and sports, allowing me to make many positive impressions upon teachers and coaches. But without guidance from my family, it can be easy to feel lost when the time comes for college applications. I have learned to rely on the internet, my friends with older siblings, and my school’s resources to fill the gap. To any first-generation students, my advice would be to have patience and be ready to learn. Due to the hardworking and driven mindset I adopted from my parent’s example, I have pushed myself to learn as much as possible about the unfamiliar world of college admission. Though the extra research may appear tedious, I have found it important to learn common terminology such as “subject tests, Common Application, recommendation letters'' and also to assess what really interests me and what I see myself doing in the future.
I, and other first-generation students, may encounter more problems than originally expected. But I believe this unique experience can push us to be even more resourceful and driven. And perhaps most importantly, it provides the opportunity to learn more about ourselves as we work towards a new chapter in our lives.