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Articles / Majors & Careers / Finding My Way As A First Generation Student

Finding My Way As A First Generation Student

P Written by Possible Dreams, Possible Paths | June 9, 2021

Jonathan's guidance counselor and friends helped him apply for college when his family could not.

"It was hard at first, but I looked around and I had all these people that helped me...Counselors at school helped me with everything. My friends have probably have been my biggest supporters."

Watch the video and read the full transcript below

“I was thinking about college when I was in 10th grade I was already looking trying to see where I wanted to go. Which is when I found out about University of Miami, that's where I wanted to go. That's always been my dream college. Didn't know how much it's gonna cost. So I was talking to the guidance counselor at Winter Haven High and she was like, 'Yeah, I can see you going there, but you may want to look at some other places.'

And I was like, 'Why? This is where I want to go.'

She's like, 'I know but just look. Just compare the prices.'

And I looked and I was like, 'Okay, it was like $250,000.' Yeah, I never finished it. I can't finish the application.

My name is Jonathan. My favorite color is Navy.

[LAUGH] My mom was a high school dropout. My father was actually in prison, he actually got out six months ago. And education wasn't really a top priority in our household, no one in our family actually took it seriously or went to college. It just wasn't a top priority and it wasn't mine either, to begin with.”

Can you share a challenge you’ve faced and how it’s shaped you?

“Growing up was tough because I grew up without a dad cuz he was incarcerated since I was three. And then my cousin who was in prison, when he got out, he came, met me, my mom, and my sisters pretty much took care of us, got us a house. And from that point on, he was my dad. And he was my motivator because he was the one that actually pushed me to do better in school. I never took it seriously like I said. And when I met him, that's when he was like, you're smart you can do better than what you're doing.

And then he passed away in March of 2010. And that's when things again, kinda like like, fell, I've run into so many problems and I would go back home to my mom and I would tell my mom, she would say, okay, I'll do it.

The first time I got accepted to UCF, I told her that she needs to send some papers off. And I told her four months in advance. And she was like, 'Okay, I'll do it next week.' And I was like, 'Okay, fine this next week, you know, I still have four months.' Next week came, I told her again, she's like, 'Okay, I'll do it.' I waited a month. That month came I told her, she's like, 'Okay, I'll do it.'

And it got to the point where everything just got, it was crunch time. I had two weeks to get everything in. And I told her I was like, 'Ma, I really need you to focus and send this stuff because If you don't, I won't be accepted to UCF.' But it was just too late, like I couldn't go to UCF.

Yeah, it was tough. She just took it as - not as a joke - but, like, I wasn't gonna leave cuz she honestly thought I was not going anywhere. And I guess when I started doing all this stuff, she realized, okay, maybe he is going somewhere. But I guess it was just from a lack of confidence or maybe just not taking me seriously.”

What keeps you motivated?

“It was hard at first, but I looked around and I had all these people that helped me if, I was like, 'Hey, can you help me with this?' Counselors at school helped me with everything. My friends. Actually besides my cousin, my friends probably have been my biggest supporters. They'd be my backbone.

Well, it started in high school, my guidance counselor, she's called the career college adviser or something like that. She's really good at what she does cuz she makes sure the people that she see that have potential and are gonna put forth the work to be successful, and I was one of those people. She made sure those people knew everything. So she, pretty much, everything I did in college I learned from her, she told me everything.

My biggest fear is actually failing and letting the people down that have been around to support me. That's something I really just don't wanna do. So I'm actually trying to make it not just for me, but for them. It's just always at the back of my mind, when I'm taking a test. I'm like, okay, I need to pass this test, so I can pass this class, so I can get my degree, so that everyone has been behind me, know that. Their work to help me was never a waste.

Well now I have been at UCF for a year and this last year it's been not anything difficult or hard.

It's actually been pretty smooth, easy, fun, had a blast.”

Want more inspiring videos and real student stories?

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"I know something that I struggle with and that a lot of my friends struggle with is kind of balancing things and knowing where to put all your weight... Sometimes you gotta take a step back and have a little bit of a breather."

Written by


Possible Dreams, Possible Paths

Created through a partnership between educational nonprofit Roadtrip Nation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Possible Dreams, Possible Paths allows students to connect to stories and experiences from their peers, through video interviews centered around topics like mental health, plans beyond high school, social issues, family and responsibilities.

Explore the website for more inspiring, real-life stories and resources for students.

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