With high school graduation only five months away, some of you may be stressed about your college plans next year. But don’t worry, you’re not too late to start your college applications.
Here’s my story.
Nothing is scarier to me than being in a new situation with no knowledge of what to expect. Sometimes I prepare by doing research about that new place or I bring someone along for the journey to feel less alone. But even with preparation, the process of getting to college was unavoidably daunting for me.
I have lived in Las Vegas for most of my life; it’s where I call home. I remember playing kickball in elementary school and finding my passion for theatre in middle school. And, it was in high school where I really flourished as a leader. It wasn’t until my junior and senior years rolled around, and my friends started making plans about where they would go for college, that it finally dawned on me that I may be moving away for school very soon as well.
The idea of moving away for college was uncommon for me and my extended family. I grew up in a very close household and when I told my family I hoped to move away for college, they were initially shocked! Not disapproving, but also not quite understanding. After all, my sisters lived at home while attending college, so why couldn’t I? They didn’t understand my motivation or reasoning. Heck, I didn’t really know either! But, for me, there was this unexplainable feeling that I just had to do it. Maybe it was because my friends were unquestionably going away for school that I felt the need to go away too. Whatever the reason, I was a senior in high school and adamant that I would soon be leaving home—it was time to get out and try something new.
But, being a first-generation college student, I had no clue how to navigate the college search process. To be honest, I did everything wrong as a prospective student. I completed the admissions application to the University of Nevada, Reno late (in March), filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid late, applied for on-campus housing late, missed the scholarship deadline, and many other small things. But at the end of the day, no matter how stressful it got, something deep inside kept propelling me through the process and pulling me towards the University of Nevada, Reno.
In fact, it was my English teacher, Ms. Matterly, that ultimately convinced me that Nevada was the right college. She studied education while at the University of Nevada, Reno and talked about how she had a blast in college and met so many amazing people. She was the first person to give me an inside look at what my college experience could look like. I remember her eyes lighting up when talking about the University as if she was reliving those fond memories.
And, by the end of spring semester of high school, I too had decided on the University of Nevada, Reno.
I spent the summer making calls to the admissions and financial aid offices, doing more research on what I should bring to college, what new student events to attend and submitting payments. Stressful moments were mixed with the feeling of melancholy that my adolescence was being left behind and a new chapter was starting.
Graduating from high school was a moment that I’ll forever treasure. I graduated in a white gown, on stage, with all my closest friends in the Thomas and Mack Event Center. Almost immediately after the graduation ceremony, I received my roommate assignment, met with my adviser and even changed my classes. Each day I felt myself being pulled in a different direction. North specifically. Away from the heat of Las Vegas and into the cool mountainous air of Reno.
And then, just like that, the first day of school. After struggling to get a room on campus (because I applied for housing late and ended up on a waitlist), I managed to get into the newest residence hall out of sheer luck and even got a cool roommate from Las Vegas.
Before I knew it, my dad and I were hauling a year’s worth of luggage to Reno in my brown Tacoma, stuffed to the brim with hangers, coats and shiny IKEA products. We spent eight grueling hours driving through rural Nevada before arriving at last to the Nevada Living and Learning Community, where other eager students flowed in and out of buildings with boxes much like mine. My dad and I unpacked the truck quickly. Then, he drove away that same hour, but not before giving me the quickest hug goodbye, so as not to prolong the bittersweet moment of leaving me to my adulthood.
And there I was, at the start of a new adventure. Just like I had hoped. I had moved away from home and enrolled at a Tier 1 university. That first night, I shyly moved around the halls, avoiding gazes and keeping to myself. You couldn’t see it yet, but I was bubbling with excitement. “This is what I wanted,” I thought to myself. “And I’m just getting started.”
Efrain is a first-generation college student who grew up in Las Vegas. He attended Green Valley High School where he spent much of his time in student council and theater. Efrain graduated from The University of Nevada, Reno in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management. He is currently working as an admissions and recruitment coordinator in the Las Vegas Office for Prospective Students with students from several high schools.