I have delved into reviewing video footage and transcripts since I returned from my trip to the east coast. It’s been meaningful and moving to revisit the stories that people shared, and to think about the lessons they want to impart to other first gen college students in an effort to help them succeed.
The transition from high school to college is a big adjustment. Students from urban public schools often have no sense of the differences in their education compared to students from affluent (public or private) schools. How can they possibly anticipate the rigor or academic expectations they will encounter when they get to college? This can often result in disappointment in their academic performance in college, at least initially.
One theme that emerged again and again in the interviews is the importance of asking for help. So many people talked about the pressure they feel to have it all together, to know what they’re doing, to prove they belong and deserve to be at college. That can often lead to an attempt to do all themselves, and a reluctance to ask for help.
First Gen College recently released a new video. Christian Juárez, a graduate of Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles, is a student at Georgetown University. In the video, he shares his shock about his initial academic struggles in college, and the realization that they key to his success is asking for help, and taking advantage of the resources available to him at Georgetown.
Several years ago, J.K. Rowling delivered a graduation address at Harvard. She told the story of her journey from rock bottom to the pinnacle of success she has achieved as a writer. She shared some of the insights she learned from that experience.
“I had been set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive… So rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something. Unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you’ve failed by default.”
“Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected.¨
Christian and many other first gen college students are learning how strong and resilient they really are when faced with the challenges of adjusting to college. Though you may get knocked down, Christian reminds us that what’s important is bouncing back up.