Joining the First Scholars Network

Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network offers a national model for scaling holistic first-generation student success by engaging and empowering institutions of higher education to radically transform the first-generation student experience, advance academic and co-curricular outcomes, and build more inclusive institutional structures.

The First Scholars Network is a journey for institutions of higher education who serves as the backbone for this national scaling model, bringing together higher education leaders from around the country to share data, model innovations, and scale impact to first-gen student support. 

The First Scholars Network currently has 274 First-gen Forward Institutions and 52 institutions who have progressed to our signature phase, First Scholars. Our institutions are represented by dedicated professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, address challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the United States.

Network Member

 Network Member in Blue > First-gen Forward > First Scholars > First Scholars Champion Campus

Serving as the entry point into the First Scholars Network, Network Member institutions commit to building a foundational understanding of first-generation student success through participating in monthly workshops, networking and professional development opportunities, sharing knowledge and resources, and contributing to a peer community An institution may advance to the next phase, First-gen Forward, upon successful completion of the Network Member requirements.  

By joining the First Scholars Network, your institution is making a commitment to advancing first-generation outcomes with the goal of becoming a Champion Campus.




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

  • Be a NASPA Institutional member;

  • Institutional Contacts must have a FREE NASPA member profile;

  • Secure cabinet-level leadership support and commitment to participation;

    • Designate a minimum of two currently employed faculty and/or staff, plus at least one senior leader,  to serve as the institutions leadership team (additional faculty/staff are welcome to participate in programming); and

    • Commit to fulfilling the items outlined in the Required Experience section below.

Each phase of the Network has unique eligibility and programmatic requirements that are detailed in those sections.

Benefits of Participation

Benefits for Network Members include:

  • Receive public identification as a Network Member institution with opportunity to advance through subsequent phases;

  • Listing on the Center's website and at select NASPA conferences;

  • Deeper engagement in the 16,000+ member NASPA network;

  • Connection with the Center’s talented team of experts to support your work;

  • Engage with peer institutions across the country willing to offer support, share resources and evidence-based practices, and celebrate program successes;

  • Engage in professional development that strengthens the campus knowledge base;

  • Set goals and measure progress through the annual report process;

  • Craft an institutional feature blog for the Center's website;

  • Receive first-look access to new Center reports to advance knowledge on first-generation student success;

  • Access to the Network Member Learning Hub; an online community of practice and resource sharing; and

  • Access to professional development e-learning modules to advance institutional efforts.


Required Experiences

Once selected, the Network Member experience begins in June 2023 and concludes in June 2024. Institutions must remain active and complete the following requirements:

  • Attend the Virtual Kick-Off: June 2nd, 2023 at 12:00-3:00pm ET;

  • Submit institutional goals to the Center;

  • Attend monthly Network Member Meetings;

  • Complete three (3) Center Online Learning Events;

  • Write and submit an Institution Blog for the Center’s website;

  • Host a First-generation College Celebration event;

  • Attend a First Scholars Interest Meeting;

  • Submit Annual Report; 

Network Member institutions become eligible to move to the First-gen Forward phase in June 2024.


Associated Cost:

Please note: there is no application cost or annual fee to become a Network Member. The only associated costs with this experience include maintaining NASPA institutional membership status and participating in a minimum of three Center Online Learning events (at a reduced rate for Network Members).

Application Overview

We are excited to welcome a new class of Network Member institutions. Please review and dates, deadlines, and opportunities below: 

First Scholars Network Application is Closed: Complete the interest form below to receive an update when the next application is available.

First Scholars Network Application Content Guide:  View Guide

First Scholars Network Application: Early 2024

This is a comprehensive application process, asking you to share aggregate institutional data, detail campus-wide efforts to support first-generation students, as well as demonstrate institutional buy-in from leadership. Information shared is only reviewed by Center staff and used for selection purposes. The eligibility states that institutions must be a NASPA Institutional member. The application includes steps to determine institutional member status. Please be prepared to confirm eligibility. 

We utilize a tool called the Readiness and Progress Audit for our application. 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.

Complete the Interst Form below to receive the application:
First Scholars Network Interest Form

We invite you to utilize the Center's resources, follow us on social media @FirstgenCenter, and reach out at [email protected] with other questions. Thanks for your commitment to serving first-generation students!

First-gen Forward

The second phase in the First Scholars Network, First-gen Forward convenes institutions with a demonstrated commitment to advancing first-generation student success. Building upon the Network Member year, First-gen Forward institutions engage in regionally-based community meetings, networking and professional development, and share knowledge as leaders in this important work. Through active engagement and meeting annual requirements, First-gen Forward institutions maintain status within this phase of the First Scholars Network. First-gen Forward institutions in good status are also eligible to advance to Phase Three: First Scholars as a sign of preparedness for institutional transformation. 

The First-gen Forward cycle runs from June to June, annually. To remain active in the First-gen Forward phase, institutions must:


  • Submit institutional goals to the Center;

  • Attend a minimum of (4) monthly Regional Community Meetings;

  • Complete three (3) Center Online Learning Events;

  • Host a First-generation College Celebration event;;

  • Attend a First Scholars Interest Meeting;

  • Submit Annual Report;


Reaffirming Commitment

At the end of each cycle, First-gen Forward institutions may choose to remain active in this phase or move on to Phase Three: First Scholars. By choosing to remain, requirements must be met annually and active engagement must be maintained. A review of engagement and reaffirmation of status occurs every three years. 

First-gen Forward institutions attend an interest meeting each year to learn about the opportunity to advance to First Scholars.