Lack of experience stalls success


By Marci Suela, Art Director

First-generation college students may feel frustrated due to psychological challenges and a lack of guidance. These issues can prolong the academic plans for these students, who don’t have a sense of direction upon enrollment.

The Center of Student Opportunity (CSO), a nonprofit organization that aims to empower first-gen students through their path in college, defines the term as anyone whose parents or guardian did not receive a four-year degree.

Because their guardian or parents lack personal college experience, first-gen students have to work twice as hard. If not properly guided, these students can struggle with endeavors of planning their academic path toward a paying career while balancing multi-generational family dynamics.

As a first-gen student, I faced problems including a mentality of being on my own, a shift in identity and feeling pressured to achieve a degree.

According to Contra Costa College’s 2015 Student Success Scorecard, the percentage of first-gen students on campus during the 2013-14 academic year was 48.7 percent of the 10,875 students enrolled.

That is almost 5,300 students who may be dealing with these same issues.

If CCC wants to increase student success, it needs to provide more resources to serve as a support system because these students also deal with psychological challenges for choosing their academic routes.

Lack of resources prevented me from identifying myself right away as a first-generation college student. As a result, my ignorance was categorized with a pool of indecisiveness and lost individuals in need of guidance.

My parents emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines during the 1960 and 70s with a mindset of Filipino traditions. Upon the transition, they focused on continuing the practice of prioritizing care for their elders while adjusting to American culture. Because of low-income circumstances, providing for our family came first and they were unable to focus on improving their own lives through academic resources.

Achieving a successful adaption to a new culture provided a stable environment for my upbringing.

Since my parents grew up in the Philippines during a different era, I encountered generational and cultural barriers when discussing academics. Because they were born in a rural area with different standards, my parents perceive education as a step to improve one’s lifestyle.

“Kapag dumating ng tamang panahon ay makakatulong sa iyong sariling pamilya,” as my mom would say.

It translates, “When the right time comes for you to have your own family, this will help you make your life better.”

As a result, the consequences of them skipping college left me with the struggle of having to understand the process without their help. I turned to word-of-mouth from peers and researched on my own in deciding my future.

If a counselor or professor can provide aid beyond a planned academic path, there would be an increase in student success. It would also establish a nurturing environment as first-gen students, who could have been lost like me, and provide assistance to their peers who are in need of guidance.