Being the firstborn of an immigrant family meant that I didn’t have the same resources and advantages of incoming freshmen with parents that went to college in the same country. It took me nearly six years of going to college to realize that I’m going to college for myself and that I wasn’t going to graduate “on time” like other people. Freshman year of college was my most tumultuous year, and I wish more people shared real college experiences. The truth is, many people told me about college and gave me advice, but they never told me the reality of it. I was told that professors would be stricter; it would be easy to find work-study jobs, etc. The main concern people had about my college experience was when graduation would be.
I had to go to community college due to financial reasons. If I had done it correctly, it would have saved me money like everyone says. But, I was a first-generation college student with absolutely no idea what I was doing.
It wasn’t until my second semester of community college that I realized that no one’s college experience is similar. There’s no such thing as graduating on time because everyone is on a different path. In fact, only 41% of college students graduate within four years and 59% graduate in six years. On average, college students need at least 120 credits to get a Bachelor’s Degree. In order to graduate within four years, you would have to take at least 15 credits per semester. That doesn’t include the classes you may fail, changes in your curriculum, or additions specific degrees require.
Everyone had told me that I needed to take more classes than I could handle which led to me feeling overwhelmed and stressed. It ultimately led to me failing classes. I was starting to give up completely and was letting myself fail because it was just easier that way.
College is about taking control of your own education. It allows you the flexibility to choose when or how many classes you want to take. You have a lot of free reigns, depending on the availability of these classes.
Throughout my ongoing college experience, I’ve realized that many people don’t graduate within four years. Some people may take an extra semester, others may take another year, and some might take a couple of years. There is no right or wrong way to do college. You will meet many different people that have taken different amounts of time to finish college.
To this day, I still get questions from family members about when I’m graduating and what my plan is. And, to this day, I still don’t have an answer for them.
No matter how long it takes you to graduate, whether it’s three years or ten years, you are doing something great. Even if you don’t go to college or drop out of college and find an alternative path to find a career, you are doing something great. The reality is that the real world will still be there.
It takes a lot of patience and strength to be able to stop letting people’s comments get to you. It gets frustrating and tiring to constantly go through this and have to deal with people’s comments. But what people should know is that they are getting a degree (or job) for themselves, not anyone else. You need to remember that it’s you that’s getting a degree (or job) at the end, not your family members. It will be no less of an accomplishment if you graduate in five years or ten years. Being able to graduate is a huge deal, and no one should be able to take that away from you.
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