Ryan Hightower, a former Undergraduate Studies student, is a sophomore studying economics and human dimensions of organization (HDO). She is a first-generation Longhorn with plenty of advice to share about finding your way on the Forty Acres.
How do you work through the challenges that come with being a first-generation college student?
I think the biggest challenge is the pressure to succeed. Being the first in your family to attend college is meaningful. There is a lot of pressure to make your support system proud. I had to remind myself that, while I am grateful for my family who have helped me get here, ultimately this is my education, experience, and future. I have to focus on what is right for me. I did this by choosing a major that I am passionate about and want to pursue in the long term. And remembering that grades are important, but mental health is always the top priority. In coming to terms with these things, I overcame many challenges and allowed myself to pursue a path that felt right for me. Keep in mind that this journey is meant to be fun too. I always make sure to have a balance between classes and having a good time!
What advice would you give to your first-year self?
Slow down and enjoy the experience. I spent my freshman year undeclared, frantic to find the right major, while also stressing to get perfect grades. Truthfully, you have time. College is a place for education but, much more than that, it’s a community.
Sometimes undecided students feel like they need to quickly find their major of study and, alongside keeping up with classes, this consumes all of your time. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that it is okay. You have time! Check out student orgs, interact with fellow students, and enjoy being in college!
How have you found a sense of community?
I joined a student organization, Human Dimensions of Organization Undergraduates (HDOU). HDOU is laid back and filled with peers that share the same passion about HDO as I do. Getting to meet other students in my same field of study, in a relaxed setting outside class, allowed me to open up and feel like I belonged.
What has been your favorite moment at UT?
My favorite moment was discovering the Turtle Pond. It’s such a lovely spot! I go there with friends, to study, and to clear my head. I definitely recommend checking it out—it’s my favorite place to go for some fresh air!
Learn more about First-Generation Longhorns.