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

    • may leave school because of finances

  • Academic and Social Transition Problems
    First gens…

    • may be unfamiliar with the structure and demands of college

    • may experience discomfort due to differences in socio-economic status  or cultural background

    • may lack confidence in their ability to be successful

Since a college education is critical to career opportunities and economic prosperity, it is important that first gens get the information, counseling, and encouragement they need both before (way before) and during college.   With a combination of college readiness, cultural assimilation, and family support, a growing number of  first generation students will attain college success .  It's an important part of our mission to help make that happen.

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