What does it mean to be the first in your family to attain a college degree?

Published 27 Mar 2017

A college diploma is not just a piece of paper. It is not also a decorative ornament that can be displayed on the wall. A college diploma is not only a document issued by an educational institution certifying the successful completion of a course of study. It is a culmination of the knowledge and experience that has been gained as a result of the student’s dedicated effort to acquire knowledge, understanding and skills in preparation for a career. For some, a college degree is simply a course that is earned through blood, sweat, and tears.

There are countless of families who have not earned a college degree due to socio-economic status, health condition, disability or language barrier. In some developing countries, there are parents who prefer to give educational priority to their male children as women are expected to be homemakers, wives, and mothers. Others prefer to work and earn a living. There are those who have taken advantage of the opportunity to face their blooming career in sports and show business as college studies can take a backseat and may be earned at a later time. There are many young adolescents who need to care for their own children, attend to their sick parents or become the bread winner of the family. The reasons for not earning a college degree may be endless but no one could ever dispute the value of education.

Getting a college degree cannot be compared to the exaltation that one gets in winning a varsity game for the first time or passing a driving test after many months of practice. The first generation who will make a first step to enter college will encounter several obstacles and challenges after completing their high school education. First, they have to bear the absence of parental support or guidance as their parents may not be knowledgeable about college application requirements or the preparation needed for higher education. Their parents may not be able to accompany them or to assist them in inquiring about the courses that are available in various colleges or universities.

Second, they will cope with a lot of pressures from their parents and siblings as expectations are high in terms of completing their studies and excelling in school. The daily pressure will be a challenge as their families are counting on them to be the first person to earn a college diploma. Third, since their parents have only attained either a primary, secondary or vocational course they do not have white collar jobs and stable incomes to support their children’s education. These students have to rely on their college scholarship, financial aid, loans, and jobs for their allowance and to sustain their studies. Lastly, some first generation students have their own children and families and being in this situation adds more challenges as they need to find a balance between their studies, work, and family obligations.

The joy and pride of being the first generation to attain a higher education outweighs the challenges that any student will encounter in college. A college diploma, once earned will be a passport to an array of opportunities and productive life that would never be available to people who have not earned a bachelor’s degree. This will also provide comparable salaries to the graduates who will be employed in similar occupations as other non-first generation peers. A post secondary education will change the life of the graduates completely. As their socio-economic status improves, having a diploma or a credential will inspire their siblings and children to aim for a bachelor’s degree so they can get good paying and steady jobs, and better quality of life. The degree holders who have their own families will be more confident and prepared to guide their children in their studies. Their professional and financial achievements will lead their children and siblings to have higher aspirations, better academic achievement, better opportunities and financial securities. A college degree paves the way towards the attainment of one’s hopes, dreams, aspirations, and goals and most importantly, it spells out the most important word in the minds and hearts of every graduate – SUCCESS.

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