It’s College Application Season and #FirstGen Students Need Affirmation

As a high school senior, I spent the majority of my time stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed with the college application process. From perfecting my personal statement to making sure colleges offered me the correct types of financial aid, the process was overwhelming, to say the least. During the hardest days, I wished I had an older sibling, parent, or even a close family member that I could address my questions to. While I had an amazing college counselor, it would have been helpful to have someone in my family to support me during such an important time. While many students across the U.S. have this as a resource, I did not because it was the reality of being #firstgen. This reality is shared by the “thirty percent of higher education students” who are the first in their families to attend college, according to University Business. Below are three ways we can all work together to support our young people in the midst of college application season:

Share your story.

The Latinx community has been sharing stories intergenerationally for years before colleges were even accessible to our people. We have used the power of our stories to spread wisdom and love amongst one another. During the college application season, it’s important to continue this tradition and share our own stories about college experiences with students undergoing the application process. Many students may not have visited the colleges they are applying to and hearing a myriad of experiences can support them in making informed decisions.

Provide affirmations to high school seniors.

Navigating spaces that were not designed to serve students of color is an exhausting, and at times, can be a demeaning process. We ask that our young people make life-changing decisions all over the span of a few months, leading to a stressful time in their lives. If you have young people in your life who are in the middle of the college application process, reach out and offer words of affirmation. Sometimes a simple note or text message can provide much-needed comfort.

Network, network, network.

As communities of color, we especially need to continue opening doors of opportunities after the ones that are created for us. It’s crucial that we open up our networks to our young people venturing off into the college environments so that they can expand their options and opportunities. We need to become the mentors that once supported us through our experiences in college.

The college application season can represent the culmination of a family’s sacrifices in order to provide an excellent education for young people. Being the first generation presents unique challenges and as first-generation college graduates, we need to be the ones at the forefront of paving the way for more students to enter these spaces in higher education. Despite these spaces not being designed for us, we need to take our rightful and deserving place inside of them. Let’s continue to work to make college a reality for so many young people who dream of it.

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Daniela Felix

Daniela Felix

Daniela is a first generation college student who is heavily involved in education in her home district, West Contra Costa Unified. After becoming a mother at a young age, Daniela’s passion for education justice only intensified and she began to fight for an equitable education for all children, regardless of background or zip code. Daniela played a key role in organizing parents with the California Charter Schools Association and is a firm believer in school choice for all families. She is currently a Lead Organizer with Students for Education Reform, organizing college students around education justice issues in her home district. She was recently accepted into Teach for America and plans to continue impacting the lives of children in her hometown of Richmond, CA as a high school social studies teacher. Daniela is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing her B.A. in Legal Studies and Education along with her 4 year old daughter and husband. Daniela is a firm believer in that every single child is capable of meeting high expectations if given the correct support. Daniela hopes to be a provider of that support.

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