First generation college students are defined as the first in their family to receive a bachelor’s degree or have parents who never completed their bachelor’s degree. Most first-gen students therefore have a perception of college from social media, Hollywood movies and their peers. These sources depict college as a mixture of cliques, drama, individual freedom, and notoriously Greek life. This perception of college is far from reality. For starters, at Texas A&M University only ten percent of students report they participate in Greek life. This is a small population of students at Texas A&M and at other universities, yet it is the predominate group that is represented in movies and TV shows. The realities of student life contrast what is depicted in entertainment and online. The lack of honest content about student life when I was in high school was jarring to me.
As a student at Texas A&M I have gradually learned to become more proactive with the causes I care about. I decided to write a book with experiences from current students and information regarding what they wished they knew their freshman year will help guide incoming freshmen students and ease the worries of their family. The mentors and advisors I had freshmen year helped guide me through the maze of confusion and I wanted to do the same for the incoming class. The most important advice I received is that every student transitions into college differently, therefore there are multiple solutions to every issue. I took all the advice and experiences from everyone else and then decided what was the best way to solve my own problems. From the experiences of my peers, advisors, and my own, I think my book will tackle some of the most common issues that freshmen college students will have their first year. By all means it is not inclusive of everything since everyone faces different obstacles during their transition into college. Not everyone at Texas A&M has a mentor therefore if this book helps even one more student, I am willing to share my lot of embarrassing, ridiculous and avoidable mistakes as well as the hard-earned successes.
As a first-gen college student myself, I can agree that the perception of college I had as a high school student was influenced by social media and Hollywood. Even the experiences my high school and college friends told me about was not an accurate depiction of my own experiences from my first semester at A&M. Some statements they made included: “College is easier than high school. People don’t really study, maybe the nerds.” In addition to asking my friends, I even tried to read books regarding what to expect in college and specifically googling the individual colleges I applied to.
If anything, I was frightened by the fact that I, an introvert, would be attending college in a different city, with 60,000 students, and none of my close friends or anyone in my high school could tell me what to expect. I was afraid that I would be lost without anyone and my family would prove me wrong in that the better college for me was the community college ten minutes away from my house. I think without participating in a freshman learning community and attending fish camp I would not have quickly connected with current Aggies and gained insight of their experiences. Of course, even after attending fish camp I still had a tough time transitioning into the college life.
Overall, college campuses have gotten better in terms of reporting statistics, however some topics such as mental health often go unreported. My goal with this book is to provide a more accurate source of student life – to show naive high school seniors that it is more than what is depicted in the media or on the internet. I want to encourage freshmen to seek help and to also learn about the unspoken reality at Texas A&M. I think if there was more information regarding student life at Texas A&M – the ugly and the amazing things – high school students will have a more accurate perception of college. Freshmen students should feel that it is perfectly normal to have the problems they face while transitioning into college.
If you would like to learn more about programs for first-generation college students at Texas A&M, please visit the LAUNCH website. There are additional programs beyond those offered by LAUNCH. Scholarships that serve first-generation students specifically are awarded by Texas A&M University’s Scholarships and Financial Aid office.