Ask Emma: First-gen student on managing school and extracurriculars

We are too hard on ourselves and believe that we should be doing more, but in reality, we are doing enough.



Rho Nu Club’s logo, in which I am an activity coordinator

SHAKIRA GONZALEZ-LUNA, Evergreen columnist

Editor’s Note: Even though Emma Ledbetter has graduated, The Daily Evergreen has decided to continue the Ask Emma segment with a new author in honor of our friend Emma and all the people she has helped.

Dear Emma,

This is my first time being away from home, and I feel the pressure of being the first person to go to college in my family. I feel like I am not doing enough, so I joined a lot of extracurriculars, and now, I don’t know how to manage them with school. My parents have never been in this position, so I don’t know who to ask.




Dear Ana,

Being a first-year in college can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. Especially when you are a first-generation student.

We feel the overwhelming weight on our shoulders of making our parents proud and not messing up the opportunity of going to college. For most of us, this is our first time away from our family, and we try to find ways to not feel lonely and keep ourselves busy.

I am currently majoring in nursing, minoring in human development and am one of the activity coordinators of Rho Nu, WSU’s pre-nursing club.

When I first got here, I decided to get as involved as I could because I wanted to feel part of something. I joined the Rho Nu Club, applied for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and got a job at The Daily Evergreen.

My first semester was all about learning how to balance my extracurriculars and my school work. It was a complicated process because I also tried to balance these with my personal life.

I noticed that this started to affect my school work because, on the first exams, I did not do as well as I hoped I would.

I felt like a failure. Whenever my parents called me, I would tell them I was doing good on my exams when in reality, I was falling apart. I felt like I had no control over my life.

I started to reconsider my decisions; I wanted to quit my job, stop assisting the club meetings and drop some classes. I felt like everything was too much, but at the same time, I felt like I was doing too little, which is what made me not drop anything.

So I decided to give it another try and learned how to manage my time better. I realized that the most important thing to me is my schoolwork, so I should prioritize it above all. This made me see that I should manage my extracurriculars and job around my classes instead.

This also taught me to communicate better with others and not be afraid to say no. Now, whenever I have some homework due on a day that something else was planned, I communicate with the appropriate person and come to an agreement that works for both of us.

Not only did I prioritize homework, but also any other mandatory events that were important to my job and any other program I was involved in.

I started to do better on my exams and work, and I attended meetings and activities with less of a guilty feeling of, “I should be doing homework right now.”

Another strategy that I used was a saying that my nursing assistant professor once told me and my classmates: “Whenever you feel like you have too much on your tray, take everything off it and take one item at a time.”

We sometimes are too hard on ourselves and believe that we should be doing more, but in reality, we are doing just enough.

My first semester was a roller coaster, I came in with an idea I was sure I would follow but ended up making changes to that plan.

I dropped the honors program that I was in and decided to minor in human development and stay an extra semester before applying to nursing school. Then, I would have a lighter class schedule during the time I’m here.

At this moment, that is my plan, but it can change next year or even this semester. I learned that as much as you want to stick to a plan, things do not happen accordingly. You just need to make adjustments.

As long as you don’t lose sight of your main goal, everything else will be OK.