During his first semester of college, Issa already felt like he was two steps behind.
He had a clear vision for his future — major in pre-med before heading to medical school, scrubs and scalpels. Yet he found himself in classes he discovered he did not need, worrying that he had wasted valuable time along his path to his degree, and unsure how to get back on track. As the first one in his family to go to college, Issa turned to his parents for emotional support, but he needed more guidance navigating the college process than they were able to provide.
For Sufia, these setbacks were like déjà vu. She had been in Issa’s shoes only two years earlier, also a first-generation college student struggling through her first semester at Hunter College in New York City. She describes feeling “clueless” about the college process until she began working with a student mentor who could relate to her challenges and offer firsthand perspective.
Entering her junior year, Sufia decided to sign on as a college success coach with Let’s Get Ready, to play the same role for other students from similar backgrounds and communities. The organization pairs freshmen with trained upper-level student coaches to support them through their college experience — harnessing the power of students helping students.
“When I met my coach, Sufia, I was very surprised to find that she was in the same college as me,” Issa said. “She’s a junior, and she’s been through all of this.”
As Issa describes, Sufia’s mentoring helped him break down the complexity of degree requirements, prerequisites, and the unique challenges of being a first-generation college student. With Sufia’s support, he was able to develop a degree plan that fulfills his major requirements — and stay on track to graduate on-time.
Let’s Get Ready aims to provide all students with the support they need to attain a college education. Watch this video to meet Issa and Sufia, and to learn how the model of near-peer mentorship is helping students reach college graduation.
Issa: My parents never completed college. I’m the first-generation student. I’m the first person from my family to attend college. My parents were very proud of me that I got into college and they expect me to graduate. I had many issues starting off. There were classes that I took that I was not supposed to take because I didn’t need them. There was nothing that I could turn to my parents on because they don’t know how the process works.
Sufia: I grew up in Queens, New York, and I’m a first-generation college student at Hunter College. My freshman year wasn’t the best, just getting used to the format was hard. I was clueless about the college process, but through the help of a near peer mentor, I was really able to really get myself organized. Having that help, knowing you have the support, you have somebody there to really guide you into this, that’s what really made me decide that, “Hey, Sufia, you have the opportunity to be a student success coach with Let’s Get Ready. Take that.”
Issa: When I met my coach, Sufia, I was very surprised to see that she was in the same college as me. She’s a junior and she’s been through all of this. The first year, that’s where you’re setting up the foundation for your GPA and for your other three years, and I was extremely worried that I might be staying in a career. She explained to me that, “No, that’s not an issue for you because you can [inaudible 00:00:01:19]. Moving forward, here’s what courses you need to take.” It was very good to know that there’s someone that I can talk to who has actually done the work.
Sufia: It feels great to be a part of Issa’s journey because being able to meet other first-generation college students and really connecting with them and helping them just makes them feel that you’re not alone and you have the support. It really is, it’s empowering.