My Adventures as a First-Generation College Student

This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.

I remember it like it was yesterday: my father had an open-heart surgery when I was just 12 years young. Right then and there, I knew my life had changed and there was no going back. I knew I had to find a job in order to help my parents make ends meet. During my freshman year of high school, I bought used cell phones and sold them to my classmates. However, I needed a stable source of income, so I started working for Sears when I was 17 years old.

My parents never attended college and they were successful without having college degrees. My father was self-employed and encouraged me to take over the family business. As a result, I operated and managed my father’s business for three years immediately after I graduated from high school. The business was thriving and it turned out to be very successful; however, I wanted to explore my options and pursue more challenges. I then worked for medium to large retail companies including Best Buy, Toyota Santa Monica and U.S. Bank. While working at Best Buy, I averaged approximately $100,000 in sales per month; while I was consistently a top performer, my hard work went unnoticed and unrewarded. Needless to say, it didn’t take long before I realized that the retail sales industry wasn’t a good fit for me. 

Beginning My College Career

After working in the retail industry for about five years, I realized the importance and value of obtaining a college degree. My college career began when I enrolled in Pasadena City College for the fall 2009 semester at the age of 20; however, I was forced to drop out after my first semester to work full time and help my parents make ends meet. Although my pursuit of college-level education was placed on hold, I was more determined than ever to go back to school.

My college career resumed when I enrolled in Los Angeles Valley College for the fall 2011 semester. During my first semester there, I was registered for 17 units while working part time as a teller at U.S. Bank, and I maintained a 3.57 GPA. After that, I resigned from my teller position at U.S. Bank to become a full-time student. The following semester, I registered for 32 units at Los Angeles Valley College and Pasadena City College and maintained a 3.1 GPA. Most people thought I was crazy, but I wanted to catch up to my peers and transfer to a four-year college as soon as possible.

My Hard Work Starts to Pay Off

My hard work started paying off when I was offered admission to San Diego State University with a 3.3 GPA. Honestly, I was expecting a rejection email because their business program is very competitive and impacted due to state budget cuts; as a result, they can select only a limited number of applicants. Thus, I was shocked when I received the acceptance e-mail during the first week of March 2013. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

I transferred to San Diego State University as a business administration in management major with a specialization in entrepreneurship. Why did I choose that major? I’ve always had a passion for everything business-related. Although entrepreneurship can’t be taught, I wanted to surround myself with like-minded individuals who shared the my passion for entrepreneurship.

Sharing a Survival Guide

As a first-generation college student, I experienced many hardships, but I obtained a great deal of knowledge through trial and error and had the opportunity to build character. I wanted to share the information I had obtained through this process through music since I’ve always had a passion for writing songs, but it would take too long simply since signing a record label deal is difficult and time-consuming. As a result, in summer 2012 I decided to write and self-publish my book, “Reality Check: A College Student’s Survival Guide.” Amazon.com allows indie authors to self-publish their written works and the process is relatively easy; it took about three months to write my book and create the book cover.

Working in the retail industry for approximately five years inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I wanted to become my own boss and reap all of the benefits from my successful efforts. Writing my book was my first step toward entrepreneurship. I’m a strong believer in entrepreneurship and I encourage many individuals to live the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Although it might not be suitable for everyone, it has many benefits and it’s easier than ever to become an entrepreneur nowadays thanks to the power of social media.

Helping Entrepreneurs: A New Magazine

Recently, I launched an online magazine, What’s The Word? Magazine, that helps entrepreneurs gain recognition on the Internet. How does it work? Entrepreneurs can contact us through social media and if their ideas meet our guidelines, and we’ll write an article or interview them and post it on our website. Then, these entrepreneurs can share links to these articles and interviews with their followers via social media. I’m working to make “What’s The Word? Magazine” the central location where Internet users find up-and-coming entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

When you’re a first-generation college student, your road to educational success may very well contain more obstacles to overcome than the road walked by your peers. However, don’t see this as a negative: Take the time to learn from it and embrace it. Don’t hesitate to take the initiative to become the first member in your family to attend college and, more importantly, become a college graduate. Make sure you keep your eyes on the prize at all times. I’m proud to be a first-generation college student and wouldn’t trade it for the world. All of the obstacles that I had to overcome played a role in the person I am today and I strongly encourage my peers to dive in headfirst. Remember, not all college students have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be the first in their family to earn a college degree!