Are You A First-generation Student?

If you’re not sure, you’re certainly not alone. While roughly fifty percent of students identify as first-gen, many are unaware of their first-gen status until they reach college, which can make accessing resources difficult. 

This page will help you to figure out your generational status and provide tips that will assist you as you apply to and attend college.

FAQ: First-gen Definition

Am I first-gen student? It depends on who you ask. 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!

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About the Center

The Center for First-generation Student Success helps colleges and universities to help you to succeed as a first-gen student. While we do not work with first-gen 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.

Valuable Articles For All First-Generation College Students

Tips For High School Students

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

How do I apply to college?

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High school guidance counselors, trusted teachers or administrators, and even family members can provide excellent info on finding and applying to colleges.

You can also get started using CollegeBoard's Applying 101!

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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, but you can also research options yourself by using the CCID registry as a guide!

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How do I find schools to apply to?

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There is no single best practice for identifying schools to apply to. It may be helpful to begin by identifying the different criteria folx use to select schools. Once you do this, you can identify which characteristics are important to you, and you can then use this list of criteria to narrow down possible "good-fit" schools.

This may sound like a lot (because it is!), but BigFuture's College Search Step-by-Step guide can help!

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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 is often the best place to find 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 for guidance.

You can also review the Compass Education Group's chart of test policies and score ranges to get a general idea of requirements.

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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! 

Additionally, Khan Academy and College Board offer free Official SAT practice here.

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How much will college cost?

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While college can seem expensive, most students pay far less for their education than the advertised price at their institution. Grants, scholarships, and education tax benefits may render a previously out of reach school rather affordable.

Learn how to calculate your net (actual) cost of attendance with BigFuture's Understanding the Cost tool here.

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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, but this guide from Form Your Future can help!
  • 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 offices 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 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? Check out this helpful page to learn new terms and then read below for tips about navigating your campus community.

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

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Many institutions offer first-gen-specific student clubs, peer and/or faculty mentoring programs, student support services (SSS), TRiO programs, financial wellness/FAFSA workshops, residential/living learning communities, research opportunities, and study away programs.

Search your school’s website or ask your resident advisor/assistant (RA), orientation leader, or peer mentor if your school offers any of the above. 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 (RA), orientation leader, or peer mentor for help finding the financial aid office. 

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

Identify scholarship/financial aid opportunities

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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 research/internship 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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The following offices may offer paid or unpaid ways to get involved:

  • Campus Activities

  • Student Health and Wellness

  • Student Counseling

  • The Learning Center/Academic Support/Tutoring Services

  • Center for Service/Volunteering

  • Campus Recreation

To find ways to get involved, you can search your school’s website or talk to your resident advisor, orientation leader, peer mentor, or friends.

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How do I find an internship?

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Your school's career services office, future alumni network organization, major/minor-specific student clubs and organizations, and faculty members can be great resources for helping you to find paid and unpaid internships.

You can also find internship opportunities online. Check out Forbes' "The 10 Best Websites for Finding An Internship" for a list of good places to start your search!

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Resources for "First-gen plus" Students

A student's first-gen status often represents only one facet of a complex identity. The resources below may help as you navigate your campus as a student with multiple identities, but we encourage you to reach out to a trusted advisor for more information on support 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 #FirstgenForward to keep up with conversations that might be relevant to your experience.