College Access for First Generation Students

March 8, 2018


First generation students--kids whose parents have not been through the college experience themselves--face unique challenges in getting to and through college.  We've been fortunate in our practice to have the opportunity to create and deliver college planning programs for non-profit organizations that help underserved high school students—many of whom are first gens--become college-ready and navigate the college admissions process.


Because of differences in awareness, opportunity, and achievement versus others, first generation students are at a disadvantage in terms of both going to college and graduating.  Helping these young people requires an understanding of the specific obstacles that get in their way:

  • College Readiness
    Many first gens:

    • lack familiarity with the importance of high school curriculum and how it relates to college readiness

    • attend low performing high schools that provide fewer college prep courses

    • receive less preparation for standardized tests

  • Family Challenges
    First gens…

    • may not get family support because of the perception that the child is turning away from the family

    • feel guilt that they are abandoning their families

    • may struggle with balancing commitment to family and their own desire to attend college

  •  Financial Obstacles
    First gens…

    • often lack an understanding of the availability of and types of financial aid

    • to avoid debt, may work while in school, leading to a lack of focus on classes and making connections that are vital to their ultimate success