First Gen Students: Struggles are Real

You belong. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Finding people, organizations, and resources that help you feel that you do belong can make all the difference, especially on days when the struggles feel overwhelming. (And, you will have those days. We all do.)

More and more colleges and graduate programs have First Gen student orgs. Seek them out. Ask your Dean of Students or Student Services office if there is one at your school, and request the name and contact information of the president. Reach out today. Ask when the meetings are this semester, find out when the next one is, and attend that meeting.

As you begin this new semester, think about how you can help the people in your world (family, friends, co-workers) to understand how much time you need to study. There is simply no way to compete in academic settings without a significant investment of time -possibly more time even than you are already spending.

But people are not mind readers. Those in your world may only see the results, (the amazing results, that you should be very proud of!). They may notice that you have succeeded at many past challenges. But, they often don’t see how hard you work. Your effort very often remains invisible. Sometimes you keep it that way, not wanting to show people for a variety of reasons just how much you put in.

All of that is tiring! And it can be particularly discouraging when you see friends and classmates whose families are giving them all sorts of help while you are not only not getting the help you need but are still being expected to help everyone else, show up at every event, etc.

At some point, it might help to let your family and friends know that you need time “off” from every other commitment so that you can focus your energies on the goal at hand. You cannot be in two places at once. Especially during midterms, finals, or studying for licensing exams – but even just on an every day week. Studying is hard work. It’s really hard to say this, but many of my students report that once they do it, it’s liberating.

You can also let people you care about know how they can help you . Not everyone is receptive, but some people really want to help and just don’t know what would be useful. Yes, you need to be left with lots of alone time to study. But you may also really appreciate a home-cooked meal, especially after you have put in a good study day or week. You might want it delivered, or you might want to go pick it up, say a quick hello, and leave so that you can sleep or study. Maybe it would be helpful to have someone test you with flashcards you have made. Maybe, someone can help with an errand that you must take care of during midterms or finals. On that note, let people in your world know now, at the beginning of the semester, which weeks will be particularly difficult. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.

To sum up for today, struggles are normal. But you don’t have to struggle alone. Build your support network. And, follow your dreams. Not only do you belong, but we need you!

#firstgen, #firstgeneration, #motivation, #academicsupport, #academicsuccess, #studentsuccess, #studysmart, #collegesuccess, #gradschoolsuccess, #lawschool, #lawstudent, #barexam

Author: Sara J. Berman

Sara J. Berman, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law, is a Professor of Law and Assistant Dean at the Touro Law Center. She formerly served as a Director at the Washington DC-based Center for Legal Education Excellence.

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