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Why can’t I fail classes?

Stigma of failing college courses as a first generation student

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A Classroom

A Classroom

Kevin Connors

Kevin Connors

A Classroom

Carlos Gomez, Web Editor

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One of the greatest (and perhaps the most challenging) things to do as a first generation child is go to college to pursue a degree. All you want to do is make your family proud, and see yourself succeed in the field of your choice. However, college courses tend to be very different to any classes that are taken in high school. They are harder, less engaging, and are taught by professors that sometimes don’t want to be there as much as some of the students. With all these new factors to adapt to, one can expect to fall behind in one or two classes, depending on the course load the student chose.

As a first generation student, I have my share of problems and responsibilities set by my family. For one, as the eldest, I have to set a good example for my younger sisters, so that they may follow their dreams and chase a degree of their own. With this comes the fear of failing courses here.

I’m on the road to achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, which is part of the STEM field. With this comes two major things: Programming classes and math. Lots and lots of math. To me, programming is a bit easy. I feel that it comes from my desire to learn it, and create with it. What I struggle with is the math-part of my degree.

The first time I failed a math course, my parents seemed a bit forgiving. They understood that it was probably the transition from changing into the university, and didn’t reprimand me too much. I tried harder the following quarter, and passed the class.

Now, with finals rapidly approaching, I realize that I may once again fail my current math class this semester. Earlier in the year, I saw my grade falling, and spoke with my family about it. This time, however, they seemed to take it a bit more serious, and felt that I shouldn’t be failing the classes here. While I do hold a part time job, they feel it should not interfere with my studies. They do not expect me to fail, and if I do, I would have to face certain consequences.

While I may not be the best at math, I am doing well in my other courses, achieving B’s and A’s. I feel that one class should not be reason to get too upset. Of course, being the first in a university sets pressure on me, a pressure that at times I feel I cannot bear. While I know that others may have it harder than I do with my family, this seems a bit too much. Sure, I should be doing well and achieving greatness. But when it is expected, any change can lead to disapproval.

I’m sure that there are others who are under the same stigma of fearing to fail a class for what their parents might say or reprimand them for. In fact, one of my close friends is under the same stress, even though he is at UCI studying Mechanical Engineering. His parents keep putting him down for falling behind, even though he spends his days hitting the books. He wants to continue his degree, and does what he can to try to get ahead, but stress eventually builds up and can make a person snap at any moment.

However, there should be some understanding of what it means to be a first year student, and a first generation student facing new challenges that no one else in the family has faced before. While I do agree to some extent that there should be some consequences for not doing well in school, I think that families should be somewhat understanding of the challenges that their children face. In hindsight, I probably should have attended tutoring instead of beating myself up for failing a test and ignoring the fact that the problems would come up again during the final exam, which I currently dread. Either way, I encourage students to not punish themselves so much and attend tutoring. A fail will only lead to punishment from two fronts.

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Why can’t I fail classes?