First generation student reflects on college experience in wake of admissions scandal

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Photo Credit: Amna Ijaz | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: These stories are a part of a “First-Gen UT” callout for student responses following the admissions scandal earlier this year. Two more stories from this callout will be published tomorrow. “First-Gen UT” is a yearlong collaborative series that shares the stories of first-generation Longhorns. Stories are published in partnership with The Daily Texan and the UT chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists,  National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association and Association of LGBTQ Journalists.

The summer before Nick Harris’ senior year of high school, his family was thrown into shambles when his father was murdered in his home. 

This made it feel “almost impossible to do anything at that time” for the now first-generation college freshman.

“When it came to applying to college and trying to do the whole college thing and not having Dad as a financial support or just as a life support and guidance and whatnot, it was hard,” Harris said. 

That’s why learning of the recent college admissions scandal was “bittersweet” for Harris. While he was hurt that a student could pay their way into UT, the school he worked so hard to get into, he said he was proud to earn his way into a prestigious college that someone more privileged than him bribed their way into.

“Whenever I received my acceptance to the University of Texas, it was a moment for our entire family,” Harris said. 

 

Motivated by his father’s passion for journalism, Harris studies broadcast journalism at UT. 

“When it came to me wanting to do sports broadcasting and me having such a love for sports and a love for talking and … expressing myself, all that stuff came from my dad,” Harris said. 

Harris attends UT through the Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment program, meaning he takes one class at UT per semester and the rest at Austin Community College. 

Although Harris said he considered UT his dream school, it no longer seems like the best fit for him because of financial obstacles and discouraging conversations with his UT friends. He said he plans to transfer to the University of North Texas next fall and major in sports broadcasting.

“They said they didn’t feel like they had a sense of individuality in that program and that it was really large and overbearing,” Harris said. “(UNT has) a really good program, and it’s cheaper. If I had to point to the one thing I stressed about the most, the number one reason I’m probably transferring is because of finances. (My UT financial aid) covered probably 40% of my expenses.”

Regardless of his decision to leave UT, for Harris, the admissions scandal was a reminder of how hard many first-generation students, including himself, work to get into college.

“My family has made sacrifices throughout the way for me to get to college,” Harris said. “I know that for every kid that was accepted through that bribe scandal, there’s another kid that wasn’t accepted to UT that is back at home in my exact same situation that I was in, in a way.”