I would like to echo a sentiment that I hope you’ve heard countless times since stepping foot on the Lawrence campus— Welcome! We’re so excited you’re here!
This letter is specifically for my fellow first-generation college students, but I invite all of you to give it a read. After all, you might find something you can take with you for yourself or you may better understand an experience different from your own.
Now, to you, the 90 first-gen students in the Class of 2025. First, if you don’t know what it means to be first-gen, be not afraid. It doesn’t disqualify you from the title— hell, I didn’t know what it meant until I was poking scrambled eggs around my plate at the First-Gen Breakfast during my Welcome Week back in 2018.
The simplest definitions state that being a first-generation college student means that your parents did not complete a four-year degree. A simple definition, though certainly lacking.
To me, being a first-generation college student involves a good deal of bravery and a large serving of hope. Despite comprising roughly half of the college student population in the U.S., we are a group often overlooked or simply not considered.
But, yet, we continue on.
We continue on despite constantly feeling like imposters (you’ll hear the term Imposter Syndrome soon enough if you haven’t already). When we look back to our homes, we may no longer see ourselves reflected as clearly as we once thought. And when we look forward, the reflection is murky at best.
We certainly did not choose an easy path by deciding to pursue a four-year degree. Rather than frightening you, though, I hope this reminds you of why you’re here. You chose this difficult path for a reason; it was not a matter of happen-stance.
So, remember your reason. Write it down, and read it often. Then find people who will remind you of that reason when you forget. Kate Zoromski and Rose Wasielewski are great resources for you, and I hope you utilize them. They’ve been in your shoes and have not forgotten the discomfort.
My reason is to be an advocate for students, especially the ones who have forgotten their potential. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t partially due to my own forgetfulness. Despite this habit, though, I continue to have hope.
I have hope for you, me and all those scared shitless first-gens who will come after us. I have hope that we will not just feel welcomed but truly cherished.
President Laurie Carter is a proud first-gen, and you’ll find more like her scattered throughout the university. I am one of the proud, and I hope you are too.
I welcome you, and I cherish you. You belong here just as much as every other student, and I hope no one — including yourself — makes you forget that.