[Opinion] The American Dream Through Generations



A father and son embrace during Graduation. For many families, this moment is transformational and one that required an immense amount of sacrifice.

Over 1 million immigrants move to the United States every year in hopes of achieving the American Dream.  They sacrifice their former lives and focus on one goal: success. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 40 million of United States citizens are immigrants who also account for about 20 percent of the world’s migrants. From these families, foreign children will diffuse into American society and participate in school systems as the first generation to represent their families.

    With the number of immigrants on a continual rise in the U.S, the number of first- generation students rises adjacently. A report of college dropout rates in the United States reveals that out of the 40% of undergraduate students that dropout, 38% of students left due to financial hardship. 50% of first- generation college students are from financially disadvantaged families. Due to their families having immigrated to a new country, many have difficulties finding occupations that are able to support their families, and ultimately, their children carry these burdens and sacrifice their education.

    Studies have shown that 69% of first-generation college students aspire to receive a high degree of education in order to aid their families and communities. This approach to school only adds to their pressure to both assist and please their families in a way to bring them honor. Being accepted into elite schools is a way out of less desirable living conditions.

    However, without guidance from their parents who have not experienced the difficulties of college applications, many students find themselves isolated. Many students have reported to have completed financial aid forms themselves. Even then, many have to help their families financially and assist in paying bills while also navigating colleges and tuition fees.

    The American Dream continues to entice immigrants and attract them to the land of opportunity. However, their children will carry hardships and pressures to help support their families in college and far into the future. Many first-generation college students do not identify themselves due to the stereotypes that they may be associated with. This poses a risk to their academic successes and achievements that may be undermined upon revealing their backgrounds. 

    In my own experience, the struggles of being a first-generation student may be defined by a need to be successful in the future. I hold myself to high expectations in order to advance from my background. Others have felt the same, saying that they have great anxieties about their grades. While this does not apply to all first-gen students; I do not believe that simple passion is what motivates us first-gen students to continue our education. I believe that it is the fear of failure that keeps us from falling, but also from succeeding. Only when first-generation students can disassociate themselves from their backgrounds can we truly learn because we wish to learn. 

    I received a piece of advice last year from my mother, “Do not study for others, study for yourself.” To erase all competitors and comparisons from your educational achievements and successes and simply focus on yourself, can you succeed. This also applies to families or backgrounds; if one can realize that their education is meant to benefit themselves, will they also be released from the pressure that their families hold onto them. 


    The American Dream comes at the price of ultimate sacrifices: to sacrifice your childhood, your happiness, and your time. But selfishness is also required to have the ambition to seek what you want for yourself. Work but do not work at the cost of your future. Work for your family, but do not kill yourself for them. In the land of opportunity, you must discard everything and strip yourself bare until just your passion remains in order to continue to advance for yourself and your family.