Common Stressors for APIs

Pressure to Excel

We hear from many API students who feel the pressure to be in a major that will lead to a financially lucrative career. The driving forces include wanting to help out the family after graduation and/or wanting to fulfill the family's hopes and dreams. This pressure can be extremely stressful when students find themselves in majors for which they are not suited -- either in interest or ability.

Serving as the Family Representative

A majority of our API students come from families where English is the second language. Family obligations might include helping with activities such as: translating for your non-English speaking parents and other family members at doctor's appointments, caring for younger siblings, taking care of official school business for yourself or your siblings. API students with these types of family pressures may feel pulled between attending to family needs versus studying for classes.


Berkeley students are known for being driven to achieve. Indeed, it was this motivation that helped you earn a spot at this top-notch university. Once enrolled at UC Berkeley, the reality of no longer being in the top 5% of the class can be very difficult.

First Generation College Students

Being the first one in the family to attend college is a significant accomplishment and a challenge. Family members, while very proud, may not necessarily understand the pressures of college life at Cal. This can leave you navigating uncharted territories with minimal guidance from your family members.

Cultural and Intergenerational Conflicts

Cultural and Intergenerational Conflicts Whether you are a 5th generation or 1st generation API, you might feel caught between two worlds – the eastern and western cultures. The expectations of mainstream society may differ in dramatic or subtle ways from the expectations of your family and culture. For example, the eastern orientation places the emphasis on the needs of the family, while the western orientation focuses on the individual's needs.

Communication Styles

Respect and deference to authority is a value shared by many API communities. The questioning of elders and the voicing of a contrary opinion is generally discouraged. For some API students this has meant having less experience with formulating and championing a point of view, which is highly valued in the western academic arena.

Ethnic Identity Issues

One of the tasks of young adulthood is to determine personal values and life goals; in other words, this is the time you are beginning the process of defining who you are. This could be the first time you are exploring what it means to be an API and how this might impact how you view and interact with the world.

Model Minority Label 

For some students, Cal can be an isolating and perhaps even hostile environment. Racial and cultural stereotypes and other biases can create tension among student groups. How common is it to hear complaints of API students "ruining the curve?" And how are you impacted when you are not ruining the curve (i.e., you are not doing as well as the stereotypes would suggest)?

Biracial Relationships

Being involved in a biracial relationship can create stress and tension, if key family members, such as parents, don't approve. This kind of strain can contribute to individuals attempting to hide the relationship, relationships faltering under the strain, or in a worst case scenario, students being financially and emotionally "disowned" by the family.


Many student need to work while attending school. The time spent at a job or jobs often affects a student's study time, limits leadership skill-building through extracurricular activities, and presents a barrier to establishing a social support network at Cal.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Some APIs have experienced trauma prior to and following their immigration to the United States.