By Timia Cobb
Web Content Contributor
Tatiana Torres and I sat down and had a conversation over our mutual struggle of being first-generation college students.
First-generation students are coming from households where either one or neither parent has attended a university or attained a bachelor’s degree. These students do not have access to resources that make it easy to apply to colleges, to help them fill out financial aid or to prepare them for what college will be like.
First-generation students face way more pressure than the average college student because they are maneuvering through a system that wasn’t made for them to conquer.
Young adults who went to upper-class secondary schools and who have the support of parents with college degrees will have someone there to answer their questions, to guide them through the process and to tell them what to expect. While others who do not have these resources will not.
I was lucky to attend a well-funded school that tried to help by providing advisors to assist students when applying to colleges and financial aid. I was luckier than others because not every school has the funds to help students in this way, leaving them on their own. This is the first hardship first-generation students have to face. If they want to go to college, they’re going to have to do most of it or even all of it on their own.
Even though I had advisors help, no one but I could fight the battle of financial aid and the verification process. To this day I cannot recall a more emotionally draining and heartrending process that hurt more than what I had to go through when verifying my financial aid.
I came from a single-parent household. My mother was one of many people who never got the chance to learn in-depth about taxes, loans, credit scores, etc.. And that being said, when I asked her to help me fill out my FAFSA, I was not only questioned why I needed to know this information, but got into various arguments when filling it out.
I am not the only person who goes through this. Many incoming students will have to fill out their FAFSA themselves due to their parents not wanting to share their financial standing with advisors and them also not knowing how to help their children fill out financial aid paperwork themselves due to never having to.
No child should ever be thrown into filling out a tax return manually due to verification and schools expecting them to just “figure it out.”
Students as young as 16 should not have to learn how to decipher IRS tax refunds to give financial aid the information they need without any help. Doing this discourages them and motivates them to give up, because this process is intensely rigorous and can take months to complete.
I remember being in a state of depression, thinking I wouldn’t be able to attend college because I couldn’t obtain financial aid. Every time I sent another paper that the financial aid office asked for, there were ten more behind it.
It took me eight months to get my financial aid verified. In my time of depression, I truly thought this system that they had me go through was only there to encourage me to give up, and sadly, other first-generation students probably did.
First-generation students do not have the support that the average student has. Meaning things aren’t going to be easier, and in some cases, it will be way harder because of that.
Although, after the nights filled with crying while filling out financial aid paperwork, figuring out how to navigate on a college campus and leaving your family behind so that in the future you can support them, it all seems worth it.
First-generation students are fighting for the success they deserve and through it all, they might feel as though they have to do it alone, but they don’t have to.
Many universities provide first-gen organizations to help and support their fellow peers to get through similar problems. These organizations are also a big help to those incoming students who don’t have support and need it from someone who’s been in the same position as them.
Texas State has organizations such as First-Gen Proud, who promises the success of first-generation students by advocating for peer encouragement, mentorship and access to advanced resources. Students having organizations like this is a stepping stone guaranteeing that the next first-generation student doesn’t feel helpless and that their college experience can be as normal as the average student.