Da’Quan Craven will graduate from Georgia State this May with a degree in biology and a concentration in physiology. Originally from Flint, MI, this first-generation student began his journey as a nursing major at a university in his home state before transferring to Georgia State in 2013.

After graduating from Flint Northwestern High School, he moved to Acworth, Ga. to live with his aunt. While he was already interested in attending college in Georgia, financial reasons prevented him from doing so at that time. So, he returned to Michigan and enrolled at the University of Michigan at Flint in spring 2012. After about a year and a half, he was ready to return to Georgia and realize his dreams of working in the medical field.

“Georgia State offered me the best financial support and this helped me tremendously,” he says.

He transferred to Georgia State without even visiting campus.

“I used to come into the city when I lived with my aunt, so I thought I had a pretty good sense of everything,” he explains. “But I actually realized before my first semester started that I had mixed up the campuses of Georgia Tech and Georgia State in my mind. But it was fine; I love our downtown campus.”

Overcoming Fear and Trusting His Abilities

Even with the mix-up, the experience of transferring to Georgia State was very smooth for Da’Quan. The only difficulty was his fear of not getting in.

“I had really good grades, so I don’t know why I was afraid,” he reflects. “I think there was a self-confidence issue, which I think a lot of other first-generation students have, too. You have to fix this right away. I have a lot more confidence now than I did back then.”

He’s felt first-hand the fear a lot of prospective college students feel when they think about what college will be like.

“Before going to college you hear about how difficult it’s going to be, that you might fail… There’s a fear of failure and what that might mean—that I’m not good enough… But after taking a few classes, I realized, I can do this,” he shares.

Da’Quan has always had a passion for education, which was reflected in his behavior as a young child.

“I’ve always loved school. As a kid, I used to cry on snow days,” he remembers. “I definitely wanted to go to school.”

One of his biggest supporters is his mother. She even moved to Atlanta after Da’Quan’s first semester at Georgia State. Both she and Da’Quan saw this move as an opportunity for her to finish her own college education. At his urging, she went back to school and she will graduate from the University of Phoenix in October.

“We’re both going to be college graduates,” he reflects. “That’s pretty cool.”

Immersing Himself at Georgia State

Da’Quan has kept busy at Georgia State. He serves as president of MAPS (Minority Association of Pre-Health Students), he’s involved with OSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, and Mathematics), and he recently joined Golden Key International Honor Society.

He is also a Supplemental Instructor Leader for Anatomy and Physiology II this semester and serves as a teaching assistant for anatomy and physiology labs. Overall, Da’Quan has served as an SI Leader for six different courses. Additionally, he tutors for Student Support Services-STEM Program, which provides services for low-income and first-generation students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math programs. But his position as a tutor and peer-leader doesn’t stop him from getting help when he needs it.

“Seek help and make sure you get the help you need,” he says matter-of-factly. “Find someone you can ask for help. Find that one place where you can get help and get your questions answered.” He cites the Office of Black Student Achievement as an example. “Find a student who is above you and in the same area as you. Find a peer mentor,” he says.

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He explains that peer-mentors can provide tips and talk to students on their level. He should know; he served as a peer-mentor during his time at the University of Michigan at Flint.

He advises other first-generation students to take advantage of their immediate resources, which include their professors.

“I’ve always taken advantage of the professors. They are nice, helpful people. Why not take advantage of this resource?” he explains. “They’re already in the profession I want to be in. There’s no need to be afraid of professors. They’re people, too. They’re here to help you.”

He also thinks it’s important for students to find their passions.

“Find what you like. You may not know it, but you’ll always be pretty good at something you like,” he says.

A Bigger Life Awaits

Da’Quan has big plans for after graduation. He will gain research experience by pursuing a master’s degree, which will help him apply to M.D./Ph.D. programs. He’s already been accepted into the Master’s in Medical Physiology Program at Case Western Reserve University.

“This was my number one choice and I have accepted their offer!” he shares.

Reflecting on his time as an undergraduate, Da’Quan insists he wouldn’t do anything differently.

“I’d do everything exactly the same… I’d just advise everyone to make everything a learning experience,” he says. “Even if you feel like there’s a certain thing you don’t like or aren’t interested in, give it a try anyway. That will help set you up for success later if you give everything a try.”