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Tuesday, September 1, 2015
What Does it Mean to be a First Generation College Student?
It's one of those old pieces of college lore. Those afflictions you secretly want to have in order to improve your chances of getting in. You know, the soft factors that generate the most heat in debates about college admissions. Race. Gender. Class. National origin. Hardship.
It's uncomfortable to talk about. Because it involves privilege. All the marginalities that make life hard for people in real society can somehow be an asset in the admissions game. When colleges say they want a diverse student body, people don't fully understand what it means.
So they write their own stories. I shouldn't check the Asian box. I should tell them I'm gay. They should know my parents are African, even if I was raised in Topeka.
I see the way people talk about the difficulty of being the first in their family to go to college. It's one of those things that the rest of us can't really understand. All the adults in my family went to college. That I would go too was never a question. There was virtually zero mystery to the experience. A handful of my relatives had even gone to my university.
Yet, we never really see this discussed. Which is why I found this recent NY Times article so moving. The author talks about her experience as a first-generation college student. Not in terms of its value as an admissions metric. But in terms of the way it played out for her in real life.
It's the kind of story that should remind people that there is a difference between hardship and sob stories. That everyone doesn't arrive to the ivory towers on the same bus. That adversity isn't a free pass but rather a thing that contextualizes the journey, imbuing it with meaning.
Because while college is a new page for every freshman, all prologues are not created equal.
New York Times >
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