A first-generation graduate gives advice on being successful in college
Friday, Apr 22, 2022

My name is Kate Curtis Gonzalez and I am a proud first-generation college student. I currently serve as the Assistant Director of Academic Advising and Retention at RCBC, and am honored to share my experience as a first gen college student.

I began my college journey at a 4-year university, about two hours away from home. As a first-generation college student, and just a brand-new college student in general, I found myself often unsure of how to “do” college. I did not understand what choices I had or who I could even reach out to with questions. I was working numerous hours per week at a part time job and would often take additional shifts, even if it meant that I would miss class. I didn’t think this would be a big deal since, in high school, I could usually do the minimum amount of work and still get decent grades. I wrongly assumed that this would be the same in college.

At the end of my first semester, I found myself on academic probation and not long after, I was academically dismissed from the college. While I knew that I was working too many hours, skipping too many classes, and not putting enough time into studying and homework, I was still shocked and embarrassed by my situation. Unsure of what to do next, I moved back to my hometown and began attending a local community college. This move helped me really begin to pick the pieces up and figure out what I wanted to go to college for and why I was getting a degree.

While I still needed to work a job throughout my time as an undergraduate student, I was able to develop skills that made doing both possible. I learned what study methods worked best for me, found the huge benefit of studying with others in my classes, and learned how to better manage my time. Finishing college has helped me build a career. I love and find a passion for life-long learning, so much so that I work in higher education! A take-away from my journey is if I can be dismissed from college but later move on to receive a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, anyone can.

My advice is, if at any point you are struggling in school, step back, take stock of what areas you can improve on, see an advisor for advice, and look for your why. Remember that the student you were yesterday, does not have to be the student that you are today!

To learn more about personalized support RCBC is offering to first-generation, low-income students, visit rcbc.edu/flip.

Photo of Kate