I grew up in a lower-middle-class family in the Oak Cliff area of south Dallas. No one in my family had attended college. I was extremely motivated to study at the best school I could get into, because I loved to learn, and I had had success as a student. I remember requesting admissions materials from institutions all over the country. It has always been difficult for me to ask others for help, so I tried to research everything on my own. One of my high school teachers suggested Washington University in St. Louis. Over Christmas break during my senior year, a couple of friends and I got permission from our parents to take a road trip—by ourselves—to visit the Wash. U. campus. That sealed the deal. I did the best that I could and filled out the application, and they responded with a generous scholarship.
Most of my fellow students at Wash. U. came from well-educated families. I had a lot to learn, and it seemed that everyone else already knew things that I didn’t. They had a support system that I didn’t even know that I needed. Thankfully, I had a good first-year RA in my dorm who gently guided me through some rough spots that first year. My grandfather passed away that first semester right before final exams. I was over-ambitious in my coursework. I wanted to study everything. I was a perfectionist and a workaholic. I didn’t know how to ask for help, or whom to ask.
My advice for current first-generation students would be to realize that you don’t have to do it by yourself. Austin College offers a lot of help. There is no shame in reaching out for help. Use the tutors in the Academic Skills Center. Talk to your mentor and peer mentors. Get counseling and be open about discovering your mental health needs. Be modest in your goals and be gentle with yourself. These four years are not just years of study. They are years of self-development in all areas: mind, body, spirit. Study hard, socialize, exercise, rest, and allow yourself some downtime. I think the best thing about AC is that it’s so easy to form important bonds with helpful faculty. We are here for you!