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Samantha posing for a photo in a Dartmouth sweatshirt

Welcome to People Places Pines! Each week in the month of April, student bloggers will be bringing a post to you called "First-Gen Friday" — a series of interviews with current Dartmouth students who are the first in their families to have a traditional four-year college experience. This week, Samantha Carranza '22 sat down with members of the admissions office to answer questions about what it's like to be a first-generation student at Dartmouth. Be sure to check back each Friday for a new student feature!

Why did you choose Dartmouth?

I was between three really awesome institutions, and thankfully I was given the opportunity to visit them all. However, when I stepped onto Dartmouth's campus, I felt something different. Everywhere I went students would smile and greet me, they made me feel welcomed. Even as a first-year when the '23s got in everyone was so excited to take part in welcoming them into our community. That's what I longed for the most—community, to feel like I was part of something, part of a group of people who wanted to change the world for the better. Dartmouth builds leaders and really gives you the platforms to put yourself out there. I picked Dartmouth because I wanted to be pushed to my limits while finding a space in which I could prosper. This school has provided me with more resources and opportunities than I would have ever imagined. While my time at Dartmouth has challenged me in many ways, it has also allowed me to grow as a person and become incredibly strong.

What does Dartmouth's financial aid mean to you?

Around my sophomore year of high school, I quickly came to the realization that a college education was not something that my single mother and I could afford—it was devastating. Just like those around me I grew up with dreams of a college diploma, of really making something of myself. Being the first in my family to even apply to college, I wanted to make my mom proud and in the long run take her to see the world that she had given me. Dartmouth's financial aid has given me the ability to fulfill a lifelong dream of getting a degree and becoming the first in my family to receive a college education. It has also allowed me to explore the outdoors, harvest squash for a class, and step outside of my comfort zone into a world of endless possibilities.

How have professors supported you as you transition to college?

I struggled a lot in my transition to college. Coming in as an first-gen, low-income student, I didn't think there was much I could do to prepare myself for Dartmouth or the quarter system. The professors here are all so knowledgeable and they demonstrate so much passion in their lectures, it's inspiring—for me that made it harder to reach out and ask for help. During one of my physics classes I was having issues with mental health as well my academics and the professor reached out, sat down with me 2-3 times a week for about 45 minutes, and helped me better understand the material. It was in that moment that I realized not only how important it is to build relationships with your professors, but also how much they want to see you succeed. It may be hard to take that first step but it's so important to do it. The professors mean well but it's on you to do your part.

What advice do you have for first-gen and low-income students as they choose a college?

As first-gen and low-income students we are in a very unique position. For many of us, we went through the entirety of our college process independently. The transition into college itself can be hard, you never really know what to expect and no two college experiences are the same. When I was deciding where I wanted to go, I felt as if everyone kept giving me their input and pushing me in a certain direction. It felt as if decisions were being made for me and I was worried that I was going to disappoint those around me. What I now realize is I was the one who worked hard to get myself to that point; the choice was mine, no one else's.

This is the time to be completely true to yourself and do what you think will make you happiest. My entire life I felt I was trying to please others but believe me now more than ever is when you should place your happiness first. Do your research, weigh out the pros and the cons of each school and try to picture yourself at those places. Trust yourself; know that whichever school you choose make the best out of your experience there and take advantage of any and all resources offered to you. I promise that if you try hard enough you will be able to find a home in whatever school you choose.

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