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Nov. 3, 2020

Student view: Managing college as a first-gen

Jalin Jordan

Jalin Jordan is a senior chemistry major and a Charles Drew Science Scholar in the College of Natural Science.

College is something that has always been on my horizon but, before applying, I never thought too deeply about it. In high school, I knew I wanted to be a physician and thought that college would be a simple step to that path. Mistakenly, I believed that the hardest part of my college career would be the act of applying and not school itself.

I was unaware and unprepared for the challenges that would be presented. I did not have to try very hard to receive good grades in high school, but I quickly discovered the academic rigor in college is very different. My courses demanded much more depth of study and in a shorter timeframe.

Assignments from different courses would rapidly pile up, making it hard to meet deadlines. Also, none of my high school friends had come to MSU, which made me feel like I was really in this alone. I started to question my abilities and whether I belonged here.

“I started to question my abilities and whether I belonged here.”
To overcome these feelings of isolation and insecurity, I looked to my advisers and peers. One of my ill-conceived notions about college was that I would have to do everything on my own and, because of that, I was hesitant to reach out for help. After much internal debate, I realized that this notion had no weight, and there was no reason I needed to struggle on my own. I decided to form a close friend group with some of my classmates; we were able to study and hold each other to the standards that we knew we could achieve.

My advisers helped me by assuring that many students have these feelings — to have self-doubt is common. They reassured me of my ability to succeed and that I do belong here.

In terms of advice, my family wasn’t able to offer much due to a lack of first-hand experience. Nevertheless, they still have been very supportive in my academic pursuits and constantly remind me that I have what it takes to be a physician. They were always willing to listen as, sometimes, I just needed to talk about what was causing me stress.

To any other first-generation college students worried about how they will manage college, my best advice is to find a mentor. It’s so helpful to hear the advice from someone who was once in your very shoes.

I believe that if I sought a mentor earlier, my freshman year could have been way less stressful. College has easily been one of the most challenging times in my life; however, it’s also been one of the most rewarding. Many sleepless nights completing long assignments and preparing for arduous exams have all been worth it. After all, I’m on the road to achieving my dream of becoming a physician.

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