dawson tate

First-generation student learns what college is really like

Dawson Tate plans to get his Ph.D. in education and become high school teacher, principal

Growing up in Indian Land, South Carolina, Dawson Tate’s vision of college came mostly from what he saw in the movies.

Without a parent or older sibling with first-hand experience of higher education, Tate says he entered the University of South Carolina “kind of blind.”

“I was expecting it to be how it’s depicted in the movies,” the junior education major says. “I feel like it’s a lot different.”

But during his time in the Opportunity Scholars Program at South Carolina, Tate has decided he likes what he sees and wants to continue his education through the doctorate level so he can return to his hometown and become a teacher and principal.

“I really want to be in a high school classroom just to have more time with students,” he says. “I think at that age, they are almost at that college level, they’re making those big life decisions. I think I can make an impact on those students.”

Tate is already having an impact as a U101 Peer Leader and a tutor in the OSP office, helping students with English, math and other courses. He facilitates studio tutoring in which students are taught based on what they are learning in their classes.

“I have to make lesson plans up,” he says “It’s challenging, balancing that with my classes, but I think it’s a lot of fun. I wouldn’t want to give it up.”

You don’t have to be involved in every single thing, but whatever you do, invest in it and it’s definitely possible to achieve whatever you want to achieve.

Dawson Tate, education junior, first-generation college student

Growing up, Tate says his mother always emphasized getting an education.

“I guess that’s why I always had the mindset that I was going to college,” he says. “She wanted to make sure that once I got into my adult life that I didn’t have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.”

One of the best things Tate says he has learned in college is figuring out exactly what he wants to do by extending himself and trying new things.

“Going into college, I wanted to go the medical route,” he says. “Being here, I realized exactly what I want to do, and I have pushed myself to get involved. I started out going to this student organization, now I am president of the organization.”

Tate has taken on the leadership role for the student-run Carolina Church — a nondenominational Christian church that typically meets on campus.

“This year, we gather virtually, which has not been too fun,” he says. “But we’re making it work.”

That never-say-quit attitude is something else he has acquired these past few years.

“I think that me not having anybody from my family with college experience, I just learned it is possible if you just apply yourself. I know some students give up, but I tell them ‘You don’t have to be involved in every single thing, but whatever you do, invest in it and it’s definitely possible to achieve whatever you want to achieve.’ ”

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