Breaking Barriers: My Path from First-Gen Student to College Adviser

As a first-generation student who experienced the challenges of financial instability, my journey through higher education has been defined by persistence, determination, and the invaluable support of my college adviser and parents. 

From an early age, I recognized the financial limitations my parents faced in funding my college education, despite their deepest wishes to do so. Initially, the likelihood of attending college seemed unattainable due to the uncertainty surrounding financial resources. However, with the assistance of my college adviser, I gained insight into avenues such as completing the FAFSA and exploring scholarship, grant, and loan opportunities. Navigating the complexities of college applications and financial aid processes seemed like an impossible task surrounded by the frenzy of my family circumstances. My aspiration to pursue a college education stemmed from a desire to challenge perceptions of my capabilities and demonstrate my academic potential. I harbored a firm belief in my ability to attain a college degree; however, the logistical aspect of achieving this goal remained uncertain. 

Upon receiving my financial aid package from Appalachian State University, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of support extended to me. Discovering that I was eligible for the maximum amount of the Pell Grant and other need-based grants alleviated much of the financial burden associated with my first year of college education. Gratefully, these grants covered a significant portion of my expenses, undermining the importance of completing the FAFSA. While acknowledging the limitations of relying on student loans, I recognized them as the sole viable option to bridge the gap and pursue higher education. Today, as I repay these loans, I reflect on the immense value I gained from my college experience, reassuring the investment I made was all worth it in the end.

My college adviser served as a source of hope and guidance during a time of uncertainty, helping me navigate college applications and breaking down the FAFSA process. Her unwavering support and expertise empowered me to realize my dreams of pursuing higher education despite the obstacles I faced.  I was able to access the resources needed and overcome barriers that would have otherwise hindered my post-secondary pursuits. 

I never anticipated graduating from college, let alone advising high school seniors facing circumstances similar to those I once encountered. I went to college, earned my Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree with a minor in Social Work, and found my place within this big world through my time serving as a college adviser. Earning my Bachelor’s degree opened a door of opportunities for me for both personal and professional growth. I would not be where I am today without the help of my college adviser and I know she impacted countless lives.

As a first-generation student, I bring a unique perspective and firsthand understanding of the challenges and uncertainties often accompanying the journey through higher education. My experiences navigating the complexities of college applications, financial aid, and academic expectations have equipped me with empathy, persistence, and a deep determination. These qualities allow me to connect authentically with students facing similar obstacles and offer them guidance, support, and encouragement as they navigate their paths to higher education. Drawing upon my experiences and knowledge, I can provide meaningful guidance and advocacy to empower first-generation students to overcome barriers, achieve their academic goals, and realize their full potential.  

Now, as a college adviser, I am privileged to pay forward the support and guidance I received as a student. Drawing upon my own experiences and understanding of the challenges faced by first-generation students, I am committed to assisting and empowering students from similar backgrounds to navigate the college admissions process with confidence and clarity. I strive to create a nurturing and inclusive environment where all students, regardless of their background or circumstances, feel supported and empowered to pursue their educational aspirations. My journey from first-generation student to college adviser exemplifies the transformative power of education and the profound impact that dedicated advisers can have on students’ lives.

Needless to say, I am eternally grateful that my high school could be served by the College Advising Corps. In return, I and numerous fellow CAC advisers have the privilege of contributing to this immensely rewarding service. Thank you to the CAC adviser who opened my eyes to a world of educational possibilities. And Mom and Dad, thank you. Your faith in me, even during the most challenging times, has been a source of strength and motivation that I carry with me every day. I am forever grateful for the sacrifices you've made and the endless love you've both shown me. Thank you for always believing in me and for being my loudest supporters.

Written by Alexandria Reaves, adviser at Hiwassee Dam and Andrews High School. 




Alexandria Reaves, adviser at Hiwassee Dam and Andrews High School
Published: Mar 15, 2024 9:23am