Are You A First-generation Student?

Congratulations on choosing to further your education! While attending college provides you with a unique opportunity to develop your skills, get a good job, and give back to your community in unique ways, being a first-generation student can be difficult. You may experience a range of emotions during your college journey as you attempt to navigate an unfamiliar setting with unwritten rules, but please know that you are not alone as you complete your degree.

As a first-generation student, you possess unique strengths and talents, and there are many people who are eager to help you succeed. With roughly half of college students idenitfying as first-generation, you can almost always find someone who has experienced what you're going through.

Let us tell you a bit about the Center, and then, we will provide some additional information and resources to assist you in your college journey. We hope that you are proud of your first-generation status, and we are excited to see what you accomplish!

About The Center

The Center for First-generation Student Success is 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. This means that we help colleges and universities help you to succeed as a first-generation college student. While we do not work with first-generation high school or college students directly, we want to help you navigate your institutions and locate more information that will allow you to succeed. Check out the sections below to get started.

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Valuable Articles For All First-Generation College Students

Frequently Asked Questions: First-gen Definition

Students often learn of their first-gen identity after starting college. This section may help you to determine whether you're a first-gen student. Click the plus sign next to each question to reveal the answer!

Tips For High School Students

Are you currently a high school student considering attending college? Check out this helpful page to learn new terms and then read below for tips to learn more the college admissions process.

How do I apply for college?

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Contact your high school guidance counselor, a trusted teacher or school administrator, or someone in your family and ask about how to apply to college or university application process.

You may also use Facilitating the Application Process as a guide!

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Who can I ask for help with college outside of my school and family?

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Look into community-based programs for college or university support. Your guidance counselor may be able to point you in the right direction.

You may also use the CCID registry as a guide!

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How do I find schools to apply to?

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Contact your high school guidance counselor, a trusted teacher or school administrator, or someone in your family and ask about how to search for the right college for you.

You may also use Big Future College Search as a guide!

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How well do I need to do on the SAT and/or ACT to get into a school?

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Each college or university will have different score requirements. The institution's admissions website often includes this information, but you should also feel free to contact the admissions office, ask questions at college fairs, seek the help of teachers and guidance counselors, and even ask older students who are attending that college or university! 

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How do I prepare for the SAT and/or ACT?

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Your high school might offer free PSAT, SAT, and ACT preparation. Ask your guidance counselor or high school front office if any college preparation programs are available and how you might get involved. If your high school publishes a regular newsletter, the information may be there as well! 

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How much will college cost?

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Contact your high school guidance counselor, a trusted teacher or school administrator, or someone in your family to ask about how much it really costs to attend.

Use Understanding the Cost as a guide!

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What is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and how do I fill it out?

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  • FAFSA is the application you complete to determine the amount of Federal Student Aid that you may qualify to receive through the government. Filling out the FAFSA can be confusing, and there are a lot of associated deadlines, so review the process early and do not be afraid to ask questions! 
  • It’s a good idea to get help with your FAFSA. Your high school likely offers free workshops to help you learn the steps. You can also check with the colleges or universities to which you are applying, as their Financial Aid officea are usually glad to offer assistance. 
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Where can I find scholarships to pay for college?

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Your high school guidance or college preparation office should also have a list of scholarships. Also, don’t forget to check out local civic organizations (e.g., Ruritans, Jaycees, Lions, Veterans of Foreign Wars) for scholarship opportunities. Never hesitate to reach out to the Financial Aid office at your top-choice college or university to ask about scholarship opportunities, as well.

You can use the College Board Scholarship Search to get started, too!

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TIPS FOR CURRENT COLLEGE / UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

Are you currently a college or university student? No matter whether you are new to college or a seasoned pro, everyone still has something new to learn. Check out this helpful page to learn new terms and then read below for tips to learn more about your first-gen identity and navigating your community.

What resources does my school offer to first-gen students?

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Search your school's website or ask your resident advisor/assistant (RA), orientation leader, or peer-mentor about first-gen students, student support services, TRiO programs, first-gen student organizations, and peer-mentoring programs. Once you find options, stop by the office, introduce yourself, and get involved!

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Where is my campus' Financial Aid Office? What can they help with?

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Search “financial aid” on your college or university website, or ask your resident advisor/assistant, orientation leader, peer-mentor, or a faculty/staff member for help finding the financial aid office.

Consider schduling a one on one meeting with a Financial Aid Officer to:

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How often should I complete the FAFSA?

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You need to complete the FAFSA every year if you want to receive financial aid. The application process opens on October 1 each year.

Get FAFSA tips and learn how to avoid common mistakes here!

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Why is it important to connect with faculty?

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While it may feel uncomfortable at first, your faculty will appreciate getting to know you! Making an introduction allows your faculty to learn more about you, will make it easier to ask questions, and may result in exciting opportunities. Connecting with faculty in your major is especially important!

Learn more about connecting with faculty and sending professional emails!

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How do I find an on-campus job?

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You can find on-campus jobs by:

  • Visiting the career services or financial aid offices at your school
  • Asking other students (including resident advisors, orientation leaders, and peer mentors)
  • Connecting with faculty/staff members in departments in which you'd like to work
  • Checking virtual and physical bulletin boards around campus
  • Searching your college or university’s website for "student jobs" 

Many on-campus jobs will require you to submit a resume and/or cover letter and complete an interview. Your campus' career services office can help you with all of these!

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Who do I talk to if I have questions about my schedule, major/minor, or future courses?

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Getting in touch with your academic advisor and scheduling a meeting is a great way to receive some assistance. If you do not know who your academic advisor is, you can find out by:

  • Asking a professor, your resident advisor, orientation leader, peer-mentor, or friend how to find out
  • Searching your college or university’s website for more information
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How do I get involved on my campus?

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To find involvement opportunities, you may consider searching your school's website or talking to your resident advisor, orientation leader, peer mentor, or friends. The following offices may offer paid and unpaid participation opportunities:

  • Campus Activities
  • Student Health and Wellness
  • Student Counseling 
  • The Learning Center/Academic Support Services
  • Center for Service/Volunteering
  • Campus Recreation
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Resources for "First-gen plus" Students

A student's first-generation status often represents only one facet of a complex identity. Many students identify as "first-gen plus" Black, Indigenous, or person of color (BIPOC); Queer or Trans (LGBTQIA+); student veteran and/or military connected; low-income; and more. Holding multiple identities can give one a unique set of strengths, but this can also create unique challenges. The resources below may help as you navigate you campus, but we encourage you to reach out to your resident advisors, orientation leaders, or peer-mentors for more information on supports for "first-gen plus" students (e.g., your campus' multicultural center).

Student Voice

We would love to hear about your experience as a first-generation college student.  If you would like to share your story with us, please fill out this form. Also, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn @FirstgenCenter! Use the #FirstgenForward hashtag to keep up with conversations that might be relevant to your experience.