First-Generation College Students: Programs & Financial Aid

First-Generation College Students Guide

According to the latest first-generation college student statistics, these students make up half of the US college population. However, nearly half of them aren’t likely to graduate on time.

One of the reasons is having 165% lower median household income than continuing-generation students. That’s why 54% of first-generation students leave college without a degree, as opposed to 45% of their counterparts.

Another obstacle that 20% of first-generation college students (FGCSs) face is speaking English as a second language.

We’ll go over some other challenges and explore top programs, financial aid, and resources that FGCSs can use. But first, let’s check out some more interesting facts about them.

Interesting Facts About FGCSs

The Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI) published an insightful report on FGCSs, with plenty of stats, such as:

  • 53% of FGCSs enroll in a community college
  • 39% enroll in a four-year university
  • 48% attend college on a part-time basis
  • 8% engage in distance learning courses
  • 34% of FGCSs are 30 or older
  • 21% of low-income FGCSs earn their college degree within six years
  • 36% need to take remedial classes before going to college

Top 8 College Programs for First-Generation Students

Many colleges and universities offer first-generation student programs, with plenty of useful services for achieving academic, social, and mental success. These are some of the best.

School

Location

Program

What It Offers

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

Center for Diversity and Enrichment (CDE)

Pre-college assistance, help with enrollment, and academic coaching.

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)

Academic counseling, support and mentorship services, and a large campus referral network.

Brown University

Providence, RI

First-Generation College and Low-Income Scholars Program Center (FLiSP)

A one-year community enrichment program, bi-weekly events, and other programs for building on strengths, boosting collaboration, and thriving in college. 

University of California, San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

First Generation Support Services

Support, mentoring, and help for connecting with peers.

University of Nebraska

Lincoln, NE

First Generation Nebraska

Social events, workshops, student groups, mentoring, career planning programs, and more;

Kenyon College

Gambier, OH

Several first-generation student programs

Pre-orientation summer meetings, academic counseling, annual dinners, and more;

Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, AZ

Several first-generation programs

Pre-college preparation, successful transition, one-on-one mentoring, academic counseling, career guidance, and more;

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

First Together

Off-campus orientation, academic support, and various summer programs;

What Challenges Do First-Generation College Students Face?

First-generation students face several notable challenges before and after they start their education.

Fear of failing and disappointing their loved ones

If you’re the first person in your family to attend college, you’ll likely feel anxious. You got this fantastic opportunity that your parents didn’t have, so you feel a lot of pressure. What if you fail?

It’s normal to feel that way, but any stress or anxiety will dissipate as soon as you start engaging with the community and exploring all the college opportunities. Support from parents or guardians is also certain to eliminate any fears and make your academic journey more seamless.

Also, every education institution offers resources, support services, and many helpful programs, not to mention you can always reach out to a guidance counselor.

Lack of parental guidance

If your parents didn’t go to college, they might not understand the pressures that come with it. There are many things to learn, and you’re often strapped for time, much more than in high school.

Your parents may not be able to help you prepare the necessary documentation, such as fill out the FAFSA form. Just as everything is new to you, it’s entirely unfamiliar to them.

Luckily, there are online resources, college orientations, guidance counselors, and peers to help you out. No problem is without a solution.

Feeling guilt about the financial pressure

If your family has a low income, you may feel guilty about adding more financial pressure. However, it’s vital to remember that your parents or guardians want only the best for you. They won’t see paying for your college as an expense but rather as an investment into your future.

Fortunately, there are many financial aid options for first-generation college students. In addition, there are many favorable scholarships and grants for low-income FGCS as well.

Paying for College as an FGCS: Top Financial Aid Opportunities

Paying for an education is one of the biggest challenges that many students face, but that’s where scholarships and grants come in. So let’s see what financial aid opportunities you have as a first-generation student.

8 Best Scholarships to Apply For

If you have the necessary academic achievement to be eligible for a scholarship, these are some of the best to apply for.

  • Benjamin and Patricia Allen Scholarship

The renewable Benjamin and Patricia Allen Scholarship from Iowa State University is for all full-time students with at least a 3.0 GPA, but FGCS are given preference.

  • First-Generation Scholarship

The First-Generation Scholarship from San Jose State University has no GPA requirements. It’s specifically for FGCS, who must attend at least half-time to be eligible.

  • Odyssey Scholarships

The University of Chicago offers several need-based Odyssey Scholarships to first-generation students whose families have an annual income lower than $90,000.

  • Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship

If you want to pursue a medical degree in Maryland, the Cynthia E. Morgan Memorial Scholarship might be your way to go.

  • I’m First Scholarship

The College of Charleston’s I’m First Scholarship is a $2,000 renewable scholarship for any of its first-generation students.

  • First Generation Scholarship

Colorado Mesa University offers a $1,000 annual First Generation Scholarship to FGCSs with at least a 3.0 GPA, including first-time transfer students with up to 105 transfer credits.

  • Regents’ Scholarship

The Regents’ Scholarship from Texas A&M University is designed for FGCSs coming from families with less than $40,000 annual income. They can receive up to $6,000 per year.

  • Fontana Transport Inc. Scholars Program

The Fontana Transport Inc. Scholars Program is a scholarship of up to $5,000 from the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) for FGCSs with a minimum 3.5 GPA.

8 Most Favorable Grants for FGCSs

The following grants for first-generation college students are some of the most favorable to consider.

  • Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant program offers financial aid to any eligible student from a low-income household.

  • First Generation Matching Grant Program

The First Generation Matching Grant Program from the University of Central Florida offers financial assistance to FGCS who enroll in a minimum of six credit hours per term.

  • Alabama Student Grant Program

The Alabama Student Grant Program offers up to $1,200 per year to all Alabama college or university students, including FGCS.

  • First Generation Grant

The University of Colorado Boulder’s First Generation Grant offers up to $4,000 to its first-generation students.

  • Federal TRIO Programs

The Federal TRIO Programs from the Office of Postsecondary Education include eight student programs, including grants for first-generation students, low-income individuals, and students with disabilities.

  • Talent Incentive Program (TIP) Grant

The TIP Grant of up to $1,800 per year is available to low-income Wisconsin students who attend college at least part-time.

  • UC Santa Cruz Grants

The UC Santa Cruz Grants from the UC Santa Cruz are need-based and available to low-income undergraduate California residents.

  • Cal Grants

The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) offers several Cal Grants to all California residents attending any college in the state.

10 Useful Resources to Help You Prepare for College

Whether you’re a first-generation college student or have one in your family, these resources will give you answers to all your burning questions. They cover many college-related topics and are packed with valuable information.

  • College Now - offers fresh and relevant blog content on higher education, news on special events, and help with finding scholarships, community programs, support services, and more;
  • I’m First - shares blog stories and videos of first-generation students’ experiences to support freshmen and provide them with much-needed guidance;
  • Go College! Now - an abundance of resources for college students, parents, and educators focused on campus support, financial tools, and career guidance;
  • Center for First-Generation Student Success - apart from an information blog, this organization offers support programs and services, engagement initiatives, information on scholarships and grants, and more;
  • College Board Blog - tips and advice on college planning, resources for exam preparations, information on various majors and careers, degree options, financial aid opportunities, etc;
  • Saint Xavier University Resources - tons of resources for first-generation college students, including college-life guides, videos for developing a growth mindset, and taking advantage of college resources;
  • First in the Family - college tips, planning checklists, videos, inspirational stories, and links to many external resources;
  • College Advising Corps - resources on college admissions, enrollment, financial aid, and achieving excellence, as well as guides, success stories, and virtual advisers to connect with;
  • Future Institute Blog - advice for first-generation college students and general tips on college life, including online learning, managing finances, and balancing studying and social life;
  • Top Hat Blog - this blog is packed with college-related tips and tools, including support for FGCSs.

Being a first-generation student may seem overwhelming at first, but it won’t be long until you discover all the unique, exciting, and unforgettable experiences that college life has to offer.

With the tips and resources above and a strong support network in your corner, you’ll open the door to fascinating adventures! You’ll be able to reach ultimate success on your academic journey, keep thriving after college, and seize excellent job opportunities. Good luck!

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