As students across the nation head back to the classroom, we are celebrating First-Generation students. A First-Generation College Student is defined as a student whose parents didn’t attend college; or is the first person in their immediate family to attend college; or neither parent has at least one year of college. This month, we are sharing stories from ACT colleagues who are First-Generation College Students, but we would also like to introduce you to an incoming first-gen student.

We’re excited to welcome Machia Leggins to our series on first-generation college students. Machia recently graduated from Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and will be the first in her family to attend college. She’s planning to attend Kirkwood Community College to study dental hygiene, with the goal of working as a dental hygienist. Machia participated in her school’s show choir, West Side Delegation.

photo of Chia

What are you most excited about in this transition from high school to college?

I am excited about having more privileges and doing things on my own. Feeling independent is the best feeling. The environment of a college student is way different than a high school student. I’m also excited about meeting new people from all over the states–maybe even the country. I am excited to see the aftermath when I graduate and have a job lined up for me. And all there is is me just progressing and making moves at my job and finally thinking about a family. I’m excited about the future.

What are you concerned about?

My concerns are how I will act in stressful situations. And when I reach out or ask for help, will it be as easy as it sounds? There are certain subjects I don’t get as fast as other students and sometimes it takes rewording some things or trying to see the picture from another angle. I’m also concerned about transportation–making sure I’m on time to class and how I will manage my time overall with everything that needs to get done.

What was the most challenging task(s) in getting to where you are now?

One challenging task was trying to stay consistent on being more “excited” about school work and having fun with it. I feel like it only lasted for the first week of school and I want to make sure that I’m being engaged in my school work because I will be taking classes for my dream job. I want to be happy with my decision on which career I choose. Staying true to myself and knowing what Machia wants, and not what my family or friends want to pressure me into. That’s probably the biggest thing I have struggled with so far.

What would you like students who are in the same place as you are, or who are going to be starting their senior year, to know?

I feel like people who are in the same place as me or going to be senior should know there is no shame in being eight months early in being ready for college. I would definitely get started on career exploration or what you would want to do as a job. Pick something you would enjoy doing and do internships.