About First-gen Forward

The Center for First-generation Student Success launched in June 2017, with the mission of being the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development, and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students. In continuing this mission, the Center launched First-gen Forward, the nation's first recognition program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success.

There are currently 268 desginated First-gen Forward Institutions across the 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23 cohorts. Collectively, they represent a community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the United States.


Eligibility Requirements

  • Be an active, accredited, two-year or four-year institution of higher education, and located within the United States;

  • Be a NASPA Institutional member and the primary institutional contact must be a professional member;

  • Secure senior leadership support and commitment to participation;

  • Designate a minimum of two currently employed faculty and/or staff to serve as the institutional representatives to the program (additional faculty/staff are welcome to participate in programming);

  • Commit to fulfilling the requirements outlined in the requirements of participation section below.

Benefits of Participation

Participants from selected institutions will have opportunities to engage with a national cohort of institutions as well as a regional community of colleagues who are in geographic proximity to their campus. Selected First-gen Forward Institutions will:


  • Receive public identification as a First-gen Forward Institution on the Center's website and at select NASPA conferences;
  • Receive an official designation logo for use with institutional online and print materials;
  • Receive a template for a campus press release announcing your institution selection;
  • Receive an official notification letter to institution leadership from NASPA President, Dr. Kevin Kruger, celebrating this achievement;
  • Benefit from deeper engagement in the 16,000+ member NASPA network;
  • Engage with a broad cohort and regional communities of peer institutions willing to offer support, share resources and evidence-based practices and celebrate program successes;
  • Engage in professional development that strengthens the campus knowledge base;
  • Receive reports and feedback through the annual report process;
  • Receive an institutional feature blog on the Center's website;
  • Receive first-look access to new Center reports and advance knowledge on first-generation student success;
  • Have an opportunity to advance to Advisory status after two active years.

Requirements of Participation

First-gen Forward institutions must:
  • Participate in the First-gen Forward Kick-off Workshop. This Workshop will be conducted virtually, requiring no travel. If accepted, the Workshop details including date and time will be shared.
    • This workshop will be free to those from selected First-gen Forward Institutions and will serve as the official kickoff for the cohort beginning their First-gen Forward experience. Participants will meet other First-gen Forward participants, learn more about the Center and First-gen Forward program, engage in professional development, hear from keynote speakers, complete goal setting, and gather with assigned small groups to plan monthly calls.
      • Selected First-gen Forward Institutions will be receive specific registration information.
    • First-gen Forward Institutions in their second year and beyond are welcome to attend this virtual workshop and will have a dedicated workshop experience.
  • Actively participate in one Regional Community call each month (approximately 6-8 total calls)
    • Each First-gen Forward Institution will be placed into a Regional Community based upon geographic location for monthly calls. There will be approximately six to eight total calls as some months will be skipped due to holidays.
      • Topics and virtual call management will be determined by the First-gen Forward Advisory Institution within the Regional Community.
  • Complete a goal-setting exercise and brief annual report
    • Using a provided template, First-gen Forward Institutions will engage in a goal-setting exercise leading up to the kick-off workshop to outline both goals for program participation as well as advancing first-generation initiatives across their campus community.
      • At the end of the First-gen Forward annual cycle, there will be an opportunity to review and reflect upon progress toward goals. These documents serve as great tools to share with senior leaders on your progress!
  • Attend a minimum of three (3) virtual events (Center Live Briefing or OnDemand)
    • Each month, the Center offers new live and recorded professional development opportunities on topics specific to first-generation student success. A look at current offerings can be found here. First-gen Forward Institutions are asked to select a minimum of three live or on demand events to participate in during the annual cycle. New content will be added regularly and participation is at your convenience.
      • This can be personal professional development for those representing an institution or can be used to host gatherings for faculty and staff to offer education on first-generation topics. These events make great brown-bag lunch gatherings!
      • All First-gen Forward Institutions receive discounted pricing on virtual event registration.
  • Complete one blog about first-generation institutional initiatives or a relevant topic
    • Each First-gen Forward Institution will be provided a template to craft a short blog on institutional first-generation initiatives or a relevant first-generation topic. The blog schedule will be shared with First-gen Forward Institutions during the kick-off workshop in June.
      • Blogs may include text, photos, videos, audio, etc, and will be featured on the Center's website and across social platforms. These become useful promotional pieces for your institution.
Optional Opportunity

First-gen Forward Institutions will have the opportunity to participate in free optional virtual workshops throughout their experience, for cohort meetings and professional development.

Continued Engagement

First-gen Forward Institutions who continue to satisfy the requirements of participation, may continue with First-gen Forward. Continued participation allows for new or different faculty and staff participants and requires completion of the goal-setting exercise and annual report, THREE (3) virtual events, and engagement in monthly calls. Unless desired, there is no requirement to continue to complete additional blogs. After two successful cycles in the program, First-gen Forward iInstitutions are eligible to remain at the same status or apply for Advisory status.

Application Overview

This is an in-depth application process, asking you to share institutional data, detail campus-wide efforts to support first-generation students, as well as demonstrate institutional buy-in from leadership. The eligibility requirements state that institutions must be a NASPA Institutional member and the primary institutional contact must be a professional member. The application includes steps to determine institutional and profesional member status. Please be prepared to confirm eligibility.

Complete the application to the best of your ability, but please understand that it is not a requirement of your institution to be actively pursuing each area to be considered for selection. We look forward to learning more about the great efforts you and your colleagues are leading!

Application is Closed

Soon after the close of the application, the review committee will begin the selection process. Institutions will be notified via  an email to the primary contact included in the application.

Please note that the Center team is making substantive updates to the application for the 2023-34 cohort at this time. More information about the application and the timeline will be available in the coming weeks.

Outside the United States?

If you and your institution are located outside of the United States but you interested in learning more about the First-gen Forward recognition program, please email the Center.


First-gen Forward is an institutional designation, once you become a First-gen Forward Institution or First-gen Forward Advisory Institution, that designation remains as long as your institution is actively advancing first-generation efforts and program requirements are being met. There is a difference between the requirements of participation from your first year and beyond. Current First-gen Forward Institutions should review the First-gen Forward Course for detailed information about specific requirements.

Leadership Opportunities

Selected institutions will enter the program with the First-gen Forward Institution or Advisory Institution. After two successful cycles, First-gen Forward Institutions will be eligible to apply for First-gen Forward Advisory Institution status. This designation signals a continued commitment to first-generation student success and allows participants to become Regional Community leaders and offer leadership support to new First-gen Forward Institutions. This designation also comes with additional recognition for the selected campus.

An institution is also welcome to remain a First-gen Forward Institution beyond two years, without applying for Advisory Institution status, to continue professional development with fewer requirements.