Eric West Jr.

Only IU

When West was a sophomore in high school, his math teacher told him about his experiences at IU Bloomington. West went on a tour of the campus and fell in love. From that point on, it was IU or nothing.

“I only applied to IU,” said West, now a junior. “I just knew I was going to go to IU. So August 1, my senior year, I applied, as soon as it hit midnight.”

With the help of the 21st Century Scholars program, West made his way to IU. Although initially planning to be pre-med, he changed his major freshman year after hearing about human development and family studies in the School of Public Health-Bloomington.

“I’ve always been curious as to why people turn out the way they are, especially biologically,” said West, who also minors in human-centered computing. “My grandma is white, but then my grandma on my mom’s side is black, so I would always wonder what made me lighter than my other family members.”

Overcoming doubt

Although enthusiastic about school, West had a hard time adjusting his freshman year to the pressure of being a first-generation college student.

“At first, I was scared,” he said. “I thought maybe my family didn’t go to college because they couldn’t do it and maybe I can’t do it. Since I was the accelerated student, I was the prize child, everybody put this pressure on me to go to college. I was scared to mess up because I thought my family was going to look down on me.”

But West pulled himself together and buckled down. He not only began achieving academically, he became more involved on campus, particularly serving as a mentor in the Groups Scholars Program, which helped him with this own struggles.