Identity and Belonging in College

“Congratulations! On behalf of the President, Faculty, and Board of trustees of Bates College, we are pleased to offer you admission to the Bates Class of 2022.” For many students, opening the email or letter admitting them to college grants them permission to finally take a breath, and promises a successful future at a place they get to call home for the next four years. However, just because a student gets into college does not necessarily mean they will feel at home there. Along with college comes a new set of responsibilities on the shoulders of these students; there is the intensity of the classes, the obligation of sports and clubs, the 3 hours’ worth of work for every hour of class, the pressures of having a social life, the fear of branching too far out of your comfort zone, and the struggle to prioritize mental health and self-care. With all of this to think about, college becomes a vexing game of time management.

In the midst of this juggling act, some students are thrown a few more pins while tackling the internal conflicts that arise with the role of identity. Even at a place like Bates, where people are actively trying to make the college an inclusive and aware space, some people still face the difficulties with feeling like they don’t fit in.

A lot of the time, when college students are questioning whether or not different aspects of their identity fit in, they tend to wonder if college is even the place for them. In my own experience as a first-generation college student, there are a lot of times when college seems like a time to prove myself to those around me. Getting into college is a huge accomplishment for anyone, but for first-generation college students, it is more than just a personal achievement. Rather, it is a milestone for everyone in the family. While it is an honor to be the source of pride for your family, being the first person in your family to receive higher education can come with some obstacles. The most prominent obstacle is that first-generation students cannot benefit from their parents’ college-going experience. Sometimes I find myself questioning whether or not I’m good enough to attend a place like Bates. It can be hard to know who to turn to, but luckily at Bates, I have found many resources to rely on to guide me through these upcoming years.

Many other students can relate to the struggles of identity and belonging at Bates. The feeling of fear and uncertainty is one that can be applied to everyone in college. Whether you are unsure of who you are and who you will turn out to be in the next few years, or are feeling unsure about the next steps in your life as you commit to a major and graduate, there will always be people around you who feel the same way. Despite the complexities that come with identity and “fitting in,” everyone here at Bates College is here for a reason. Sometimes you have to think back to the moment that you opened up that acceptance letter and remind yourself that ever since you were accepted into college, you have had every right to be here and to be successful.