First Generation College Students


More people than ever before are attending college. As a result the number of students attending college who don’t have a parent who also attended college (first generation students) is growing. If you are first generation, maybe your family is from another country or they were not able to afford going to college, or for a variety of reasons the opportunity had not been there for your family members to attend college in the past.

As the first in your family to go to college, you should be proud and excited about the opportunity ahead of you. But it can also be challenging or even scary at times (for all students), so it’s important to get help along the way. There are many people who can help guide you through your transition to college. You could reach out to a trusted teacher or coach at your high school, or talk to an aunt, uncle, cousin, or other family member who has been to college. Maybe you are worried about taking the SAT or ACT, or you don’t know how to decide which college is right for you. You might feel overwhelmed trying to complete your college applications, or figuring out how to pay for school. Take advantage of any resources that are available to you in high school to help you through each step, such as SAT or ACT prep courses, scholarship opportunities, and your guidance counselor.

You can also find support online, through websites like College Advising CorpI’m First (a community especially for first generation college students) or “How to Apply to College” (a course to help students and families navigate the college admissions process with a special focus on individuals who don’t have access to many support resources). They have a tool to search for colleges that are especially supportive of first generation students, and they can even help you connect with a mentor to advise you. These resources are there to be used, so there’s no need to be hesitant or nervous about using them.

After you start college, you might encounter some ongoing challenges as a first generation student on campus. You should be aware that all college students have trouble adjusting at times, and you aren’t alone even though your circumstance might be different from some of your peers. It might feel uneasy or even embarrassing to let people know you are a little lost or having difficulty, but people will be proud of you for having the good sense to ask for help when you need it. Don’t wait until you are in trouble to seek help; it’s better to use the resources available to you (advisors, mentors or the counseling center) than to flounder or feel like you don’t have anywhere to turn.

Keep in mind that everyone’s college experience will feel challenging at times, but just because you’re having a tough time does not mean that you are failing. Everyone does better with support, so there is never any shame in asking for help. If you’re struggling, remember that you are not alone, and there are so many people who can guide and support you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to when you need help.

Check out these other resources and articles about navigating college as a first generation college student:

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