Emily Sands

Profile:  Emily Sands, Interim Dean of Students

What advice would you give to first-generation students at WVU Tech?
I would encourage you to try new things. Tech has so many new and different activities and opportunities, please take advantage of them. You never know what activity or meeting that you attend that could spark a life-long passion. I would also encourage you to ask questions and advocate for yourself. This may be one of the hardest things that you will ever learn and do, but the skills that you gain in college through asking questions and advocating for yourself will be a skill that you carry with you into the world after graduation.

What do you wish you had known before coming to college?
One of the things that I wish I had known was that it was okay for me to change my mind about what I wanted to do after college. When I began, I was set on becoming a physical therapist. It was not until February of my final semester of my undergrad that I admitted to myself that I was not happy with what I had planned for my future. I had become a Resident Assistant by that point, and after talking with my Resident Director, I realized I could help college students as a career. That was a difficult conversation to have with my parents, but I was able to go on and achieve a Master’s in Higher Education Administration, becoming the first person in my family to do earn an advanced degree.

As a first-generation college student, what was one obstacle that you had to overcome?
I had to learn how to study. My high school courses, except for a few subjects, were not challenging. I did not learn how to study in high school, so I went into my Chemistry class in college thinking that I had it and I knew what I was doing. On my first exam, I earned a D. That was the worst grade I had ever earned, and I seriously began to doubt if I was even cut out to attend college. I went through my exam, figured out where I went wrong, found a study group, and was able to raise my grade. I will be the first to admit that I struggled in classes, but through hard work and learning how to study, and what study methods worked for me, I steadily improved.

What things can people do to be champions for first-generation students?
Don’t assume that everyone knows what abbreviations and acronyms stand for, as faculty and staff, we live in this world every day; our students do not. Higher Education has its unique language that takes a while to learn. Also, don’t assume that everyone knows what a syllabus is for, how the semester works, or even how a delay due to weather works. We all need to take the time to make sure that we are explaining what things are and what they mean.