BLOG: All Things Higher Ed

Are you a first-gen student?

Are you the first in your family to attend college? Congratulations – you’re a first-generation college student! You’ve made the decision to change your life, and the lives of others in your family and community, by earning a college degree. You’re setting a new legacy that will have ripple effects for generations to come.

Earning a college degree can be challenging for anyone. Research shows that first-gen college students may face additional barriers. These can include increased financial need, lack of college readiness, and even imposter syndrome. However, with the right support, first-gen students like you can be very successful in college.

At Central Michigan University, your success is our goal. We even have a office dedicated to it! Check out the resources available through the Office of Student Success.

Visit Office of Student Success

What does first-gen mean?

According to the Higher Education Act, first-generation means your parent (or parents) did not earn a four-year college or university degree. Even if your siblings go to college before you, you're still a first-generation college student!

Some colleges and universities may have slightly different definitions of first-gen. These could include:

  • You are the first person in your entire family to go to college.
  • Neither of your parents received education after high school (no community college, trade school, college or university).
  • Neither of your parents attended a four-year college or university.
  • Neither parent earned a degree of any kind (associate, bachelor’s or higher.
  • Neither of your parents went to college in the United States.

As you consider colleges, read their definitions carefully. You want to be sure you're eligible for their first-gen programs.

First-gen students and college admissions

Applying to and enrolling in college can be complicated, stressful experiences. They may be especially challenging for students who are the first in their families to pursue a degree. This is simply because their parents do not have the experience to help them with complex college-related processes. They may need extra help with tasks like completing a FAFSA or applying for admission.

Luckily, there are lots of resources to help first-generation students and their families navigate the college journey. They include:

  • I'm First is an online community for first-gen students that includes student stories and blogs, links to resources and more.
  • The Center for First-generation Student Success offers links to helpful articles and the stories of first-gen students.
  • Many colleges and universities participate in TRIO Upward Bound, a program designed to help first-generation students transition into college. 

There also are several helpful resources for all students and families on the following sites:

  • The U.S. Department of Education offers resources for students and parents on its Preparing for College webpage.
  • The National Association for College Admission Counseling's student resource section has a helpful Guide to the College Admission Process. 

Just for first-gen students

Good news: It’s a great time to be a first-generation college student! Many colleges offer special scholarships, mentoring programs, networking organizations and other services to help first-gen students achieve their academic goals.

There are many scholarships specifically for first-gen students. You can find them available through government programs and private foundations. Many colleges and universities also offer first-gen scholarships.

You can use free scholarship search engines, such as the College Board BigFuture site or FastWeb, to find them. You also should contact your preferred college or university to ask if they offer scholarships for first-gen students.

Schools also offer support programs just for first-gen students. For example, at Central Michigan University, the Pathways program connects first-gen students with mentors who can help them build community, develop a personalized academic plan, and connect with academic support. The McNair Scholars program pairs first-generation students interested in research with faculty mentors who can help them pursue a graduate degree.

Central Michigan University is dedicated to the success of our first-gen students. Visit CMU’s First Gen Central webpage to learn more.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
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