Being a First-Generation College Student Is Rough, So I Wrote a Book on How to Do It Better

Mar 20, 2018 12:00:00 AM


We have to do a better job of preparing students for college. As a young man growing up in Columbus, Ohio, the messaging was to simply graduate from high school. In elementary school, I knew that this expectation was low and that I wanted more. Luckily, I went to an early college high school where it was expected that I succeed. At The Charles School, I had the chance to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from partner university, Ohio Dominican (ODU)—for free. Once I got to ODU, classes were easy. I had the support of my high school staff, I still lived with my parents and the age gap felt normal. After earning my associate of arts degree from Ohio Dominican, I went to Morehouse College to pursue my bachelor’s degree.

Graduating Felt Like a Miracle

Within the first few weeks of classes at Morehouse, I felt so unprepared. I didn’t know how to get an internship. I had no idea about credit cards or how to manage finances. I also wasn’t prepared for the academic rigor that Morehouse was known for. I’m grateful for my early college high school experience and that I went into Morehouse with my associates but realistically I was so unprepared for college. When looking for someone to blame, I didn’t know where to turn. On one end, I was a first-generation college student so I couldn’t blame my parents. On the other end, I couldn’t blame my charter school which had one college counselor. [pullquote position="right"]Everyone prepared me the best they could for college but it still wasn’t enough.[/pullquote] During my tenure at Morehouse, I learned so much through experience. I made many mistakes that could have been completely avoidable with proper guidance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone. When I talked to a lot of my peers, I was further ahead of them simply because I went to an early college high school. My friends had never heard of office hours, how to find a mentor or declare a major. Through grace and sheer resilience I made it through Morehouse and graduated within four years. I felt that this accomplishment was more of a miracle than a given. At the time of graduation, there were so many of my former hall mates who flunked out or left because they didn’t get the support they required.

Students Don’t Have to Be Unprepared

The day after graduation I knew that I had to do something about the lack of support and preparation students receive regarding college. So, I wrote a book. “ Dealing With This Thing Called College” is for anyone looking to excel in college. In the book, I share 12 stories, three from each year of college. I teach lessons on making good friends, how to get an internship, academic success and so much more. The information in my book is timely, relevant and aims to inspire readers everywhere. My intention with this book is to share the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned in undergrad. I know from experience that going to college is very challenging. There is so much pressure to get students to sign up for college but little to no literature to assist along the way. My book looks to fill this void. High school taught me how to do basic math, write with basic competence in the English language and even a little bit of U.S. History. All of these lessons helped in part to get me through college but there were so many areas outside of the classroom where I struggled. I’m hoping that my new book will be a beacon of light for young students faced with uncertainty and trepidation concerning college. I can’t reconstruct our education system but I’m hoping to move the needle and assist with making the process of getting through college much easier.

Chris Sumlin

Chris Sumlin is a graduate of The Charles School, a public charter school in Columbus, Ohio and Morehouse College. He also holds an associate's degree from Ohio Dominican University. He is a blogger and published author with his debut book, "Dealing With This Thing Called Life."

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