McKenzie Strickland

Mckenzie 2

What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?

Overwhelming. That pretty much sums it up. With the craziness of senior year; AP classes, applications, and working, I didn't know where or how I was going to college, but I knew I wanted to go. Even though neither of my parents went to a four year university, it was always sort of an expectation I was going to college some way or another. My senior year was a lot of uncharted territory that I had to figure out on my own, which also taught me to be even more accountable and responsible. I knew that I had control of my future and knew I had to work for whatever path I chose, which was both terrifying and exciting all at the same time.

Are there any unique challenges you faced as a First Generation student?

I definitely had financial challenges because even though I knew I wanted to go to college, paying for it was a whole other story. I would say acceptance was key for me. I accepted a long time ago that college was going to be an investment into my future. Knowing that, accepting that I would have student loans just came with pursuing my goal of attending college.

Do you have any advice for FGEN students at UP that are facing challenges?

Especially working in admissions and knowing what I know now, I would have done so many things differently in the application process. The number one advice I can give to first generation students is to ask questions. If you can't afford to visit a campus, call. If you're unsure about the application requirements, do your research. Reach out to your admissions counselor because at every university there is someone there to help you. There is a lot of different application requirements at every university and it's important to do your homework and advocate for yourself. You have complete control over your future and the choice to pursue whatever it is you're passionate about.

Did a mentor play a role in your FGEN experience? How so?

My friends and family definitely lifted me up. Everyone around me wanted me to succeed, which was very empowering. My mom was and still is my biggest fan and she was a key component in helping me choose University of Portland. I know she is always cheering me on and I am so grateful for her. If you are struggling with the application process and figuring out this whole "college thing," reach out to those around you, an uncle, teacher, or friend, that can mentor you. Admissions staff is also always there to help as well. During my application process to University of Portland, I got to know Dan Reilly, the Director of Admissions at the time, and he helped me every step of the way. I wouldn't be where I am today without his guidance, patience, and ability to see a spark of potential in me that I didn't know existed and I am so thankful for that!

How do you feel your experience prepared you, both professionally and personally?

Attending University of Portland was the best decision that I have ever made. I am not just saying that because I work here (which clearly, I haven't left yet so I really do love it here), I am saying that because if I hadn't made the choice to go to college I wouldn't have had the opportunities that I am so thankful for today. Throughout my time at UP I made life-long friends, traveled through Europe (Salzburger for life), and grew as a person, more than I knew was possible.

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