Tips for the First Generation College Student

March 17, 2013
March 17, 2013 ACS

In our continually changing demographics of the United States, first generation college students are becoming a more popular group each year. Did you know, according to USA Today, 30% of entering freshman in the USA are first generation college students? And 24%, or 4.5 million of these students, are first generation and low income.

The National Center for Education Statistics defines a first generation student as an “undergraduate whose parents never enrolled in post-secondary education.”

Unfortunately, many students who fall into this category often feel ashamed that their parents never attended college and believe that their first generation information is irrelevant to their college application. However, many colleges actually track this non-college statistic, which gives first generation college applicants a slight advantage in admissions! This is why it is vital for these first generation students to highlight this on their application.

In additon, first generation college students should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Admissions officers are always seeking a diverse student body and really want to hear what shaped a particular student’s life. This includes these students who are the first in his or her family to attend college and come from a diverse background.
  • First generation students should write their essays highlighting how their lives have been shaped by having parents who never attended college.
  • Many first generation college applicants don’t have a parental role model who has had the experience of college and these students need to realize that there is support available through standardized test fee waivers or other opportunities to add extra information to their applications to help them “stand out.”
  • First generation college students should also contact the admissions office of their ‘schools of interest’ and identify themselves as ‘first generation students.’ They should also inquire about available resources to support them in the application process.
  • Attending any local college fairs and meeting appropriate representatives is also a good thing to keep in mind. And, when at these college fairs, students need to identify themselves as first generation students.
  • Understand that many schools already have resources in place to help the first generation students thrive and succeed in the college atmosphere.
  • Realize that colleges track the first generation statistic so not writing in a college for your parents will not hurt your application; in fact, it can actually give you a slight edge.

The USA Today also had some sobering statistics. Did you know that 89% of low-income first generation students leave college within six years “without” a degree? And, more than 25% of these students leave college after the first year, which is four times the dropout rate of higher-income second generation students.

So, understanding that colleges have all the resources needed for first generation students to succeed and realizing that identifying yourself as a first generation student will get you the help you may need, will hopefully see this number decrease in the future.

If you are a first generation college student and have any questions, please feel free to contact us so we can discuss how to get you into college!



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