Making the most of your investment.
I’m from Emerson, Nebraska, which has a population of like 800—very small. I graduated with 13 students in my class. Honestly, I didn't know I was going to college until I was here. I didn't do a lot of searching, and I never went on a college visit. Coming from Emerson to Lincoln was wild. There’s a stoplight on every block! It’s a lot to process right away.
For the longest time, I wanted to be a vet. My family, teachers and folks in my community encouraged me to follow that career path. Having that expectation was a bit heavy. Changing my major to English took a lot of confidence, but I love my classes and my professors. My teachers from Emerson think it’s funny to remind me that I hated those courses in high school. Now I can't get enough of them.
The financial aspects of college can be so complicated. When you’re a first-generation student, you don’t enter college with all the tools that other students may have. You don’t know what you don’t know. I didn’t know how to search for colleges, submit applications and find scholarships. I googled “scholarships for college,” and a bunch of scam links popped up, so I gave up. By the time I found out about any legit scholarships, either the due date had passed or was fast approaching, and the application was so complex I couldn’t complete it in time.
I heard I needed to fill out the FAFSA, and I was like “FAFSA? What does that mean? Where do I find that?” I did some research and found out that's how I get financial aid. I had a little bit of money saved up and a few small scholarships from my high school. However, I didn't know the scholarships were only for the first year and wouldn't keep carrying over.
I eventually figured out what office I needed to go to for help and what questions I needed to ask. Husker Hub was a great resource for me. Kristy Saunders, the associate director, was previously my academic success coach in the First Husker program. She was also a first-generation student, and it was difficult for her to pay for college, so she gets it. I feel comfortable going to her for advice and help because she can share her firsthand experiences and never makes me feel ashamed for asking questions. I appreciate that she leaves out the jargon and breaks everything down so I can understand it.
Worrying about finances can really distract you from your courses and your ability to function properly. Asking for help is worth it in the end because even the small scholarships make a big difference in taking some weight off your shoulders.
The initial shock of my transition to college was intense, but now I’m incredibly involved. I'm the president and peer mentor in the First-Generation student organization. I've also been an orientation leader and support specialist for New Student Enrollment summer orientation. I’ve worked with so many amazing people.
I love working 1-to-1 with students. For them, I get to be who I needed when I was younger. I know the struggle and the confidence it takes to reach out for help and ask questions that you might think are “dumb.” I’m here to tell you there’s no such thing as a dumb question.
I have the chance to help them find that spark of passion or purpose and realize they’re here for a reason and they will succeed. Every student has potential to be something great. My dad always says, “Find your passion and run with it.” I never imagined myself succeeding because of how much I didn’t know about being a college student. But here I am, sharing my story and being who I needed. I’ve grown so much just by coming here for school.
The opportunities that can come out of just introducing yourself to your professor are endless. My professors have been so great about getting to know me as a student. They ask how they can help me succeed and enjoy my time in the classroom. Right now, I’m doing a research project on a fire department in my hometown. In one of my classes, I'm using spray paint and stencils to create street art. I'm taking advantage of all these opportunities coming my way and just making the most of them.
College pushes you out of your comfort zone, but it allows you to do some things you never saw yourself doing. This is a time to be selfish; this is your story and your path to pave. This is your chance to create your future and make it what you want it to be.