Mother knows best
Views 45 | Time to read: 4 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 11 - 2017 | By: Vanessa Acain
An estimated 50% of the college population is comprised of first generation college students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 30% of entering freshman are the children of parents who never attended college.
As one of the multitude of first-generation students, I empathize and understand the pressure of being the first person in the family to attend college. I grew up like myriads of other adolescents with my family chiding me to ‘think of your future’ and ‘earn good enough grades for scholarships.’ Although parents only want to see their children succeed and have more than they ever had, the pressure can become overbearing and even psychologically damaging.
We live in a youth-obsessed culture that pushes Millennials to succeed far more than any generation that has come before. Millennials feel an immense pressure that we must change the world or make our impact before we are old enough to get a rental car. Adding on the pressure from parents, students face extreme stress, anxiety, and identity crises. Not wanting to appear ungrateful for the sacrifices made, most first-generation college students work hard to try to live up to the expectations of their parents. But with such high expectations, students struggle with their identity because they feel as if only academic success are their defining traits. In this generation, everybody wants to be somebody, and for Millennials, that “somebody” closely resembles a successful CEO of their own company before hitting 25. We believe we have to do it all at once, and if we don’t, we beat ourselves up for it. Especially with parents who had previously struggled with financial security, students are pressured into believing that happiness is financial stability.
The misconception that money equates to happiness already spreads through movies, books, and social media, but parents are playing a role in it too. The idea is: “I want to have a career that pays me a lot in order to do everything and anything I want to be happy.” According to Cornell University’s “Cornell Chronicles,” the study on career choices, researchers found that the majority of people will “opt for the cash, even when they know their decision will compromise their happiness… Overall this indicates that many are willing to pursue a course that sacrifices happiness in favor of other important goals.”
Parents are well-intentioned, and are most likely causing this damage without realizing. In parents’ minds, their efforts to push their children to do well and attend a good college to eventually get a good career is founded on love. However, it is not that students do not want financial security; the issue is that they have been somewhat forced into the lifestyle their parents want rather that what they do because they don’t know what else to do. According to the Journal of Child and Family Studies, “ Parents are sending an unintentional message to their children that they are not competent.” Feeling autonomous, connected, and competent are the three elements at minimum needed in an individual’s life in order for them to be on the road to happiness.
First year students want to give some sort of “return on investment” to their parents in exchange for their sacrifice, and often believe that the way to do so is by living their life to their parents’ expectations. The psychological distress among Millennial students is often and understandingly, much more than one can bear. Millennials, we do not have to have it together all at once, nor do we have to be running our own business at 22. What we do need to do is take a collective breath, and slow down. We are constantly living in the future and becoming less present in our own lives. In order for us to truly make the change we want to see in the world, we have to go back to our best selves, which means de-stressing and taking on only what we can bear. We must work on ourselves first before we go out and work to change the world.