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First Generation Graduates: Anna Will, Director of Advising, Business, and Adjunct, College of Business

November 7, 2023

When it came to attending college, Anna Will (a 2017 Indiana University biology graduate) knew seeking a secondary education after high school would give her more opportunities. Growing up in St. Wendel, Indiana, about 15 miles northwest from Evansville, she knew gathering those opportunities and experiences would help her succeed.

As a first-generation graduate, what made you want to pursue a college education?

I think the biggest thing was my parents really encouraged me to go to college. The only education beyond high school they had was that my mom went to cosmetology school, and my dad is a dairy farmer. In hindsight, I think they both wish they would have gone to college to have more opportunities.

So, for me, I wanted to open myself up to more opportunities in life. Coming from small-town Indiana, my family didn't get off the farm much. I was absolutely excited to go somewhere new, meet more people and just to get to experience a lot more. It was great because I got to have some amazing experiences that led to a lot of things. If you would look back at when I was a freshman in college and told me all the things I was going to do, I would have told you that you're crazy that I would do all that.

What was your biggest challenge, if you had any?

The biggest one would have been just not knowing anyone, not knowing where to turn or who to go to. I had distant family who had gone to college, but no one close. When I started out, my parents were supportive but had no advice on who to talk to or where to go for help on different things. Luckily, I had a scholarship program that had a close-knit community on campus, so that was really helpful. Looking back now, working in higher education especially, I've seen all the resources available to students, but I had no idea they were available to me when I was in school.

What was your fondest memory about college?

I was able to study abroad when I was in Australia. If it hadn’t been for my sister graduating high school that next semester, I would have stayed another semester there. I loved it so much. And that was something I never would have done if I hadn't gone to college. In high school, I was almost voted “Most likely to never leave the country,” and I’m one of the few people from my class who has left the state and the country.

I think that's probably my favorite thing I gained because it gave me a love for traveling and wanting to try new things.

What is a piece of advice you have for anyone looking to pursue college as a first-generation student?

Find your support person. If you’re a high school senior, find a guidance counselor, family member, someone in your community who has gone to college and can be that guide for you. And same for when you get into college. I connected with my scholarship advisor in college. Find someone who can be your advocate to help in anything and everything to navigate you through challenges you might experience.

Also, stay true to who you are. I feel like it’s common for first-generation students to feel they need to mold themselves to fit wherever they are. You don’t have to do that; you can still be who you are while growing. That’s who the University wanted in the first place.

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