Our Friday Feature

Keinda West,
Litigation Paralegal

BA Sociology-Criminology (2006, Ohio University) and an ABA approved Paralegal Certificate (2014, Long Island University – Brooklyn)

1. Why did you decide to attend college?

College was always something that was expected of me, but I went because I knew it was the next step in life. At the time I wanted to become a forensic scientist. That just was not going to happen without a college degree.

2. What were some of the challenges you faced as a first-generation college student, and how did
you overcome them?

I had a lot of fear because I have older siblings and I watched two of them attend college, but not finish. I always had it in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t finish as well. As expected, after my first year, I was on academic probation with a 1.7 GPA. The classes weren’t actually hard, I was just overwhelmed, depressed, and couldn’t find my footing. I didn’t turn things around until I realized that I wasn’t in this by myself and swallowed my pride to ask for help. In my sophomore year I talked with academic advisors, my profs, even my RA. All were glad to assist me with resources on campus. I also had to take my mind off who I didn’t want to become, a college failure, and focus on who I was striving to be, a college graduate.

3. What have been some of the payoffs for attending college?

Outside of earning credentials for the job market and a lifetime network, my whole worldview changed from attending college. I learned there was so much more in the world than the environment in which I grew up. Most important, I learned who I was. It’s where I developed my inner strength! One doesn’t necessarily have to attend college for those things, but that’s where I made my discoveries.

4. If you could go back in time and change anything about your college career, what would it be
and why?

I would have used my scholarship to attend a local community college for free! I chose not to attend because the school didn’t offer my major. However, I realized later that I could have used those two years to take my general education requirements and transferred to a 4-year school with my major to complete my degree…with less debt!

5. If you could give any advice to current and/or future first-generation college students, what
would it be?

Don’t borrow more money than you need. I didn’t discover that I could decline a portion of my loans until my senior year. The damage was already done. Each quarter I would receive and overage check of about $1500. Sure I used maybe $500-$700 of that for books, but the rest of that was not the free money I naively thought it to be. Of course, I knew I would have to pay it back, but who’s thinking that far in advance? So don’t spend all of your salary before you get the job you’ve been studying so hard for! Student loan payments are very real and all the hell that everyone says they are.

Additional info:
Since graduating in 2006, my mom has completed an associate degree in business administration and two of my older sisters have gone back to school and completed bachelor degrees in healthcare administration and electrical engineering. It’s truly been a blessing to watch them succeed as well.

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