The Imposter - Amanda Rodino

Amanda RodinoBoth of my parents started college immediately after high school, but neither graduated. As a result, I always knew that I was expected to go to college. I never questioned this plan, primarily because I loved school and learning. When the time came for me to decide where I would attend, I chose a private, four-year institution five hours away from home. Attending the most selective school with the best financial aid package seemed like the right plan at the time.

I had no idea what I did not know upon entering college. The concept of first generation college students was not even a thought at that time. Even if it had been, few students at my highly selective university would have met the criteria. Unlike many of my peers, I did not go on a college visit because my family did not have the means for one, so I saw my new home for the first time when my mother took me to college freshmen year. No one really talked to me about financial aid. For example, I would have liked to have known that I did not have to accept the maximum amount of offered students loans. My academic advising was minimal, and I chose classes my freshmen year that I would never recommend to my students. I found myself in this environment in which I had earned my spot, but I constantly felt like an imposter. I worried that my strong façade would falter and show what I knew – that I was winging it. I was the poor girl from the single parent family with a mother who worked a blue collar job.

My first year of college was rocky. By my sophomore year, I started to figure things out and regain my confidence. I made friends with other students of similar socio-economic backgrounds, and we supported each other. I got deeply involved in my academics and co-curricular activities. In particular, I became a resident advisor, a decision that would eventually shape my career path. By the time I got to graduation, I had had an incredible experience. And I was the first member of my mother's family in three generations to attend and graduate from college immediately after high school. The imposter, me, then went on to earn the first Master's degree in our family.

My advice to other first gen students is to ask questions and find your people. Individuals on campus want to help you, so never shy away from seeking out help from faculty and staff. Your campus community is also key. Seek out friends and mentors with whom you have a shared experience or connection. "Most importantly remember that you belong here. Like me, you earned your place." Make the most of this amazing experience.

Amanda Rodino  |  110 Wilder Tower  |  arodino@memphis.edu  |  901.678.2880