Throughout high school and now in college, I have been told I am “lucky.” I can’t help but feel confused as to why I would be labeled lucky when that's not even my situation. Here's four reasons why saying "you're lucky" is a problem.
1. “Wow, you’re so lucky that you’re Latino and low-income because you could apply to _____ scholarship.” Personally, I find this extremely disrespectful. I was not given a coin and asked to flip it and if it landed on heads, then I would be Latino and low-income. If that was case, then yes, my chances of being able to identify with these identities will make me “lucky.” However, that is not the case. Stating that I am “lucky” to identify as a minority and low-income student is implying that “good luck” gave me my identity. I didn’t choose to be Latino or to be low-income. If people were more knowledgeable of what it is to be low-income and to be Latinx in this country, then they would understand that identifying with both identities comes with burdens. These identities carry the burden of facing barriers in your journey to get a higher education. It means that people will doubt your potential and will always find a way to discredit your accomplishments. And as for these scholarships. Yes, there are scholarships that cater to low-income and/or Latinx students. These scholarships cater to these students because they want to address the issue of students that align with these identities being extremely underrepresented in higher education settings. So, no, Latinx students and/or low-income students are not lucky by identifying with these identities. There is much more to being Latinx and being low-income than simply being able to apply to a scholarship(s).
2. “You’re so lucky that you are first-generation because you will stand out to colleges.” Of course, I wanted to tackle the college admissions process without the guidance of my parents or older sibling simply because I wanted to be able to check the first-generation box on my college application. No, that is ridiculous. It is nerve-wracking to not be able to know where to apply to or what major to look into simply because my family members are clueless of the college application process. Yes, being first-generation and doing well academically makes an applicant stand out. However, it is not because they are only just first-generation, it is because regardless of the barriers faced as first-generation, they still manage to be strong candidates for the institution. Being first-generation does not give you an upper hand to college applications; on the other hand, it gives you many more barriers than a student that doesn’t identify as first-gen.
3. “You’re lucky that you have a rough background because you have a story to write about in your essays.” Okay, seriously? I guess we want to be poor, we want to be abused, we want to be homeless, or we want to go through crazy sh*t to be able to talk about it in our college essays. Life gave us the “good luck” that we deserve to go through tough experiences so that we could have stories to write about in our essays. That is just ludicrous.
Our experiences are things that we hold close to us because in many cases they empower us. They remind us that regardless of what we went through, we are here, standing firm and moving forward. No, we’re not lucky to have experienced hardships. We never asked for them nor did we ever want them, but they happened and we went through it, and we survived. And trust me, many of us wouldn’t wish for any other person to go through the things we went through because we understand what it is like to go through the things we went through.
4. “You’re lucky that you got into ________ University/College.” Remember, the term “lucky” means “resulting of good luck.” If the admissions process into colleges and universities was determined merely by luck, then I would have not worked as hard as I did on my college essays. Stating that an individual is lucky to have been admitted into an institution is taking away from their hard work and dedication. Institutions do not admit students based on how lucky they are. They admit students on their academic record, extracurriculars, essays, character, and other factors involved in the holistic review process. So, no, we are not lucky to have been accepted to certain institutions.
We Are Not Lucky
The take-away of this is that low-income, first-generation, and/or minority students are not in any way “lucky.” We are students that have crossed mountains, broken down walls, and been beaten down to our knees throughout our journey to a higher education. So, don’t you make us feel like we are “lucky” to be in the same classrooms as you or “lucky” to be able to apply to certain scholarships. We are much more than lucky. We are warriors, survivors, and individuals with amazing stories. Instead of lucky, we are honored. We are “honored” to be at top-tier universities to be able to tell our stories. We are “honored” of being given the opportunity to apply to scholarships that will allow us to attend these amazing universities. The word honored is defined by the Webster dictionary as, “respect that is given to someone who is admired.” We are admirable, so give us the respect we deserve.
Guillermo Camarillo is a Chicago native currently studying at Stanford University, class of 2020. His intended major is in engineering, but he is still not sure what specific type of engineering he wants to study. He was born and raised in Chicago’s West Side neighborhood, La Villita. Guillermo identifies as a first-generation, Latino, low-income student. His true passions are in STEM, advocacy ...