First-Generation College Students | Tips for College Prep

What is a First-Generation College Student?

Getting the opportunity to attend college is a dream come true for a first-generation student. For many students, college is an opportunity to turn their lives around for the better. But the life of a first-generation college student isn’t easy. Besides facing the usual challenges that any college student faces, they’re also faced with a multitude of factors that an average college student might not be aware of. 

The term “First-Generation College Student” implies a lot more than just a student whose parents didn’t attend college. A first-generation college student can also come from a family where either of their parents attended college but ultimately didn’t graduate.

A first-generation college student is an indication of progressiveness for a family. It’s a matter of pride for both the student and the family and as it represents the fact that the student has been afforded an opportunity to succeed in life. For a lot of families, it’s not that they don’t want to send their children to college. It’s a matter of lacking the funds needed to make it happen. Hence, it’s a huge deal for their child to attend college as it also inspires the child’s siblings to follow suit.

Statistics of First-Generation students

Coming from a family where none of the parents are college-educated, it does become difficult for first-generation college students to approach the idea of attending college. According to a 2018 study by PNPI, the median age for first-generation college students is 24, while it’s 21 for their peers whose parents at least hold a bachelor’s degree.

First-gen students also showcased a lack of college readiness in key academic areas, compared to their non-first-generation peers. About 36% of first-generation students take up a remedial class after their lectures and this is in stark comparison with 28% of students whose parents had at least a bachelor’s degree.

First-generation students belong to lower-income groups. This potentially implies that they have to work and study simultaneously to put themselves through college. This is supported by the fact that 48% of first-gen students attend college part-time to manage their education and work commitments effectively. To ease off their financial burden, most of these students apply for financial aid and this claim is in-line with the data. According to a Forbes study, 85% of all 4-year students seek financial aid. However, 20% of them fail to apply for it.

Resources for First-Generation College Students

The College itself

Colleges today have come a long way in terms of their curriculum and support for their students. This holds true for community colleges as well. Facilities like Guidance Counselors, Student Mentors, Support Programs and Administrative Department make it easier for today’s first-generation college students to navigate through their college life.

Social Media

Social Media platforms like YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, and LinkedIn are a goldmine of information available to all students alike. With the easy availability of these services, first-gen students can connect with other students with similar experiences and get assistance on pressing issues that they are faced with.

Summer Programs

Summer Programs prepare first-gen students for college life. These programs give them a chance to hone their academic skills and also give them the opportunity to gain some practical work experience, which goes a long way in improving their practical and theoretical skills.

Mentor Programs

The first and foremost way to search for a college mentor is to find college mentor programs. These programs are designed to help you find professional mentors who can help guide you through college and help with career planning.

Scholarships for First-generation students

As noted earlier, financial aid is available for the majority of first-gen students. The financial aid is available in the form of scholarship and here is a list of some of the noteworthy scholarships that these students might be eligible for:

First Generation Scholars

The First-Generation Scholars program is open to high-school seniors and is offered by almost every college. It is available to students coming from underserved communities and are the first ones in their families to attend college. Do Note that depending on the college, there might be other requirements that need to be fulfilled.

 For further details,  head over to this link.

The Coca Cola Scholars Foundation (CSSF)

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is a scholarship awarded to top-performing high school seniors who exhibit promise in leading and serving their communities. The CSSF invests in students looking at bringing a positive change to society and grants scholarships worth $20,000 to over 200 High School Seniors.

Head over to this link for further details.

Posse Foundation

The Posse Foundation assists students who are dedicated to their academics and are inclined to pursue higher education. It focuses strongly on students with great soft skills like Leadership and teamwork and awards them full-tuition leadership scholarships.

Further details can be found on the Posse Foundation website.

The Gates Scholarship

The Gates Scholarship is an initiative by Bill and Melinda Gates to support outstanding students hailing from minority communities to study at an accredited four-year university or college. Established in 2017, it also guides and mentors these students so that they can become future leaders for America.

 Further details can be found on The Gates Scholarship website.


The QuestBridge scholarship is intended to assist the USA’s exceptional students coming from low-income backgrounds. It supports their dream of studying at a leading educational institution and it doesn’t consider GPAs into account when reviewing its applications. It also provides relief for students who are not US Citizens or Permanent Residents but are attending high school in the US.

Head over to this link for more details.

First in Family

First in Family scholarships, as the name suggests, are awarded to students who are the first from their family to attend college. It is offered by almost every college across the world and in both public and privately funded. They assess students based on a minimum GPA requirement, which needs to be above average, and the financial assistance actually needed for them to attend college.

Refer to the link for further info.

Similar Scholarships

Here’s a list of similar scholarships that might be of interest: –

·      Regents Scholarship

·      College Success program

·      CESDA Diversity Scholarship Application

·      FAFSA First Generation Scholarship

·      George A Miller Scholarship

Find a College Mentor

The support of a College Mentor is invaluable to a first-gen student. It’s always advantageous to have an experienced mentor providing guidance and that could be a catalyst in making the process easier for a first-gen student. There are many agencies that help out students with their college applications and provide support to them once they start attending classes.

The drop out rate among these students can be reduced if they have the right guidance and that’s where a platform like UStrive can prove to be helpful. UStrive connects high school and college students with a mentor to help them with issues like college applications and financial aid using its in-house platform. And it’s 100% free for students.

Final Thoughts

The life of a first-generation college student is certainly unorthodox. It takes a lot of effort for these students to get to this point and it is easy to see why the value of a college education is intangible for these students. It’s imperative that today’s wave of first-gen students is informed and guided in the right direction. This will help them set a great example for their friends and siblings and will help them establish their foothold in society.

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