Written by: Mariana Perez, Junior at Harold Washington College – City College of Chicago, FLI Program Participant
(This content has been edited for clarity and grammar)

I remember in high school we had guest speakers who would talk about their careers and how they got there. They would tell us what school they went to, what classes they took and so on. I remember how my peers and I would think “it’s not that bad then.” But you see, now I look back and think how bad it was that they didn’t tell us about the downfalls and that not everything will be as easy as it sounds. So, I’m going to tell you the truth about college — well about my college experience — in two simple words, it’s a “learning experience.”

I am a first generation student. I had no guidance my senior year. I did not have an older sibling to talk to or even a close family member to talk to about college. My school did not have many resources and sometimes those resources wouldn’t even help. I learned through my experiences.

You see, my first semester of college I withdrew (“dropped out” sounds scary, huh). Why? Life happens sometimes and it’s hard to understand and wonder “why us?” But if there was something I learned from this, it was to not work overtime. Do not work 40 hours per week and be a full time student! 

I am a first generation student. I had no guidance my senior year. I did not have an older sibling to talk to or even a close family member to talk to about college… I learned through my experiences.

Mariana Perez

Then, after coming back the spring semester I lost my FAFSA since I did not meet my GPA goals. I was a 4.0 student in high school, so I was very hard on myself for this. If there was something I learned that time around it was that I could be a responsible adult and enjoy my life. I submitted my FAFSA appeal before I went to Mexico and while attending a 4 day concert. My appeal was approved and I went back to school, but then I did not keep up with my requirements and lost it again. 

Next, I transferred from a 4-year university to a 2-year community college. My high school made it seem like a 2-year is bad, but in all honesty I have gotten all the help I have always wanted from it! They taught me how to balance work, school, and a social life. Most importantly, I learned how to take care of myself while doing everything else. 

Now, with all this being said, I have faced a lot of battles with myself in college and sometimes I still do. Maybe even you will face some with yourself and to that I say: “Be patient, child.” Do not beat yourself up for your mistakes. Instead, you can learn from them and continue to grow. 

My high school made it seem like a 2-year [college] is bad, but in all honesty I have gotten all the help I have always wanted from it!

Mariana Perez

Not everyone’s path to “success” is the same; everyone’s road is different. It does not matter if you graduate “on time.” It does not matter if you take a semester off. What matters is that you graduate college no matter how long it takes — you will accomplish your goals! 

Everyone’s college experience is different, but just remember that it’s your story and only you can write it and re-write it in any way that you want to. We are all in the same boat with different stories. Share them so you can help someone.

Come back to the Future Blog for more articles on college and career success!