For first-generation college students Titus Rucker and Camille Proffer being accepted to UT helped them realize they could do more with their lives than they once thought, the siblings said.
Rucker, who will attend UT in the fall as an urban studies freshman, said his older sister was not only able to help him understand the college application process, but also their parents.
“When I was a kid, I was so stressed out about college, and I’d have these anxieties at night keep me up for so long. I’d talk to my parents, like, ‘What do I need to do?’” Rucker said. “(Our parents) definitely love us and they want the best for us, but they’re just ignorant about it. Talking to my sister gave me the confidence (that) it’ll work out.”
Proffer, who graduated with an English degree last spring and now works as a high school teacher, said she dropped out of high school as a sophomore, so she did not have the help of a guidance counselor or her parents when it came to college applications.
“When I would ask (my parents) for help with (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) information, they didn’t trust it,” Proffer said. “They didn’t understand why I would need their social security number or why they would have to give any of that information to the government. They basically thought that I was asking for the information so I could rob them and the government and everyone would find out (their information). They were very paranoid about the whole process.”
Rucker said almost all of his tuition will be paid for through FAFSA.
Proffer said she feels like her story as a first-generation college student is different because she attended UT despite her parents, instead of for them. “My parents were perfectly okay with me dropping out of high school as a sophomore,” Proffer said. “A lot of people have amazing stories where they go to college for their family and to give their family a better life because that’s what their parents wanted for them. But I think there are so many students that aren’t represented whose parents couldn’t care less if they went to college or if they worked a minimum wage job for the rest of their life.”
Cassandre Alvarado, the co-chair of the First-Generation Commitment Working Group, a campus committee designed to support first-generation students, said the most important thing the group has found is there’s not just one first-generation student experience.
“Each student comes to campus having a different experience as a first-gen Longhorn and may have different needs and supports,” Alvarado said. “That’s why we’ve had sort of a campuswide goal of bringing together a lot of different opportunities for first-gen students to feel supported.”
Rucker said attending college seemed impossible until he watched Proffer graduate UT last spring and start a successful career.
“Having my sister go to college … and watching her be successful … is definitely what helped the most,” Rucker said. “She was always giving me feedback saying, ‘You can do this. College is not this monster that you were raised to think it was. I was able to do it, and trust me, you’ll get through it too.’”