KIPP Goes to College: Handling Bumps in the Road

For the third post in our KIPP Goes to College series , KIPP leaders and staff from our partner universities share the challenges they faced on the road to graduation.


By Zoe Fenson, KIPP Foundation Writer

For the third post in our KIPP Goes to College series (read part 1 and part 2), KIPP leaders and staff from our partner universities share the challenges they faced on the road to graduation.


Did you ever encounter a challenge that made you doubt whether you’d graduate? If so, how did you overcome it?

“My first year was very challenging – socially, emotionally, and mentally. It was the first time in my life when I felt like an outsider – I often questioned my intelligence and felt embarrassed about my humble background. I overcame these insecurities by focusing on my academics and learning how to navigate the support systems on campus (professors, fellow classmates, counselors, etc.), and by becoming allies with a few students who shared a similar experience.”
Ilyan Nuñez, Director of College & Career Placement, KIPP New Jersey (Drew University)


“The academic rigor my first couple years of college was very challenging for me. I didn’t know how to study and I struggled as a writer. The number one thing I did was to ask for help. I sought support from the Writing Center, went to professors’ office hours, and made study groups with peers. It was all very uncomfortable for me the first few times but got much easier and helped me improve in that specific subject and as an overall student.”
Freddy Gonzalez, Chief Learning Officer, KIPP Foundation (Brown University)


“I encountered several challenges in college, but financial aid was the one that caused me the most stress. I was a first-generation and low-income college student, and came to college with few resources. I started working my freshman year at one of our main dining halls, and at one point had two jobs, just to make ends meet. It was certainly difficult and every semester I would tell my close friend, “I quit.” However, connecting with peers that were going through similar situations, learning how to manage my time, and focusing on one day at a time helped me get through each semester.”
Jacqueline Amparo, Associate Director of Equity and Access, University of Pennsylvania (UC Berkeley)


“For me it was having two very young siblings at home—my parents had a baby when I was a senior in high school and then another when I was a sophomore in college. As the oldest of five, not being home for my youngest siblings was very hard for me. I don’t think I knew it at the time, but I felt pretty guilty about not being a support system for my family and not being there when they needed me. But I’m glad I stuck it out, because college completely changed the trajectory of my life.”
Jane Martinez Dowling, Executive Director of KIPP Through College, KIPP NYC Public Charter Schools (Georgetown University)
Pictured above with KIPP NYC Alumni Erica and Wesley Close, graduates of CUNY City College and Wesleyan University


“Perhaps my biggest challenge in college was FEAR. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of not fitting in. As a result of fear I was not as courageous as I should have been during my college career.”
Rian Wright, Assistant Principal, KIPP Sunnyside High School (Central Michigan University)


Learn more about how KIPP supports students on their paths to and through college >