What’s Considered a First-Generation College Student?

Am I a first-generation college student in my family? Does it influence my chances at college? Questions like these always pop up when you are charting through college processes, especially if that’s your first time. There are always new phrases and terminologies you encounter during this college application process. It can feel daunting not knowing its whole meaning or implication, but it doesn’t have to. Let us know What’s Considered a First-Generation College Student?

What's Considered a First-Generation College Student?

The definition of a first-generation college student remains quite debatable in that different institutions disagree on the group of students that fit the term. Wholistically, a first-generation college student is considered a student whose neither of their parents attended college or completed a 4-year college degree.

Other Possible Definitions of a First-Generation College Student

According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, 1968, a first-generation college student is defined as follows:

  • An individual whose parents did not complete a baccalaureate degree 
  • In the case of any individual who regularly resided with and received support from only one parent, an individual whose only such parent did not complete a baccalaureate degree.

Other definitions of a first-generation college student include:

  1. the first person in a family to enroll in college and acquire a college degree
  2. College students whose parents went to college but did not finish college
  3. College students whose parents never attended college, even if members of the extended family did
  4. A college student whose parents acquired a degree in another country
  5. A college student whose immediate family members never attended college

Amidst the various definitions of first-generation college students, it is important to note that it is not solely the decision of the Department of Education to qualify students as the first generation. Therefore, it is advisable to contact the admission board to receive specific clarifications on the exact meaning as used by the college or scholarship to which you are applying.

What are the Perks of Being a First-Generation College Student?

Having their children as first-generation college students is a breakthrough and a cause of celebration in their home for many families. Of course, different reasons may have accrued to why the parents never attained a college degree, like financial constraints, health issues, physical impairment, or personal decisions not to further their education. But having one or more of their children continue in what they couldn’t achieve and make headway into college is worth celebrating. 

Even more, there are various benefits to being a first-generation college student. Some of these benefits are:

  • Support on campus: With the pressure that comes with charting new territories as a first-generation college student, many schools have provided campus support for their students to ease their experiences. Some colleges provide well-structured programs for their first-generation students that help them adjust and adapt to campus life, connect and network with their peers and handle the pressure of being the first in their family to attend college.
  • Tuition fees waivers, Scholarships, and Financial Aids: First-generation college students are well-considered for different levels of financial aid, which could be need-based and merit-based financial aids. Also, scholarship options are made available for those with financial constraints.
  • Admission: some colleges revise their policies to provide an edge for first-generation students to be able to get admission amidst other hurdles.

Are there Challenges and Pressures First-Generation College Students Encounter?

To be noted as a first-generation college student is not all rosy, some pressures and challenges accompany it. Based on well-investigated facts, first-generation college students are said to experience additional challenges than most’ normal’ first-year university students. Below are some of the challenges:

  • Family Expectations: the saying “to whom much is given, much is expected” coveys this point perfectly. Being a first-generation college student comes with a heavy responsibility and expectation from family members. If not properly managed, may distract the college student from studies and become a burden.
  • Imposed Syndrome: the feeling of not belonging may arise and this could cause anxiety, isolation, and even poor performance in studies and social life.
  • Family Background: the parents of first-generation college students are very much likely to be non-knowledgeable about admission processes and campus life. Having to guide their children will seem like a herculean task. This will pose a challenge for their children in that the parental guidance and support they need in going through the application process and also adapting to campus life won’t be available.
  • Financial Limitations: Most first-generation students come from impoverished families, and this will pose a major challenge. It could lead to accumulating student debt in loans and having to take up part-time jobs. The grant, scholarships and tuition waivers, even though they go a long way, they don’t usually don’t cover all college expenses and living expenses.

Finally, being a first-generation college student doesn’t have to be a status that deters you from achieving your academic goals. You can be just as ambitious as your peers, having the same drive, unwavering focus, and determination to succeed academically and in life as a whole. Don’t allow titles to limit you!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does being a first-generation college student affect your admission?

While going through your application process, in one of the sections of the document, you’ll be asked to fill in the details about your family background and education level. This information is required for various reasons, one of them being to affirm if you are a first-generation college student or not. This information and many others will guide their decision-making towards your application.

  1. Are resources available for first-generation college students?

Many colleges and institutions have gone the extra mile to provide various resources such as financial aids, scholarships, health aids, social services, support groups, mentoring, and counseling services for first-generation college students to ensure they adapt and maximize college life like every other student would.