What Does It Mean to Be a First Generation College Student

Being a first generation college student means breaking barriers, defying odds, and paving the way for future generations. Find out more about the challenges and triumphs faced by these students.


Being a first generation college student means breaking barriers, defying odds, and paving the way for future generations. It signifies overcoming challenges and stepping into uncharted territory to pursue higher education.

Unique Challenges

First generation college students often lack the guidance and support that comes from having family members who have navigated the college experience before. They may struggle with financial constraints, navigating the application process, and adjusting to the academic rigor of college.

Financial Struggles

Many first generation college students come from low-income backgrounds and face significant financial obstacles when it comes to affording tuition, books, and other expenses. Some may have to work multiple jobs or take out loans to finance their education.

Academic Pressures

First generation college students may feel pressure to succeed academically not only for themselves but also for their families who have sacrificed to support their education. They may struggle to balance their studies with other responsibilities, such as work or family obligations.

Support Networks

Despite these challenges, first generation college students can thrive with the support of mentors, peers, and college programs designed to assist them. Building a strong support network can help first generation students navigate the complexities of college life and achieve their academic goals.

Case Studies

One example of a successful first generation college student is Michelle Obama, who overcame adversity to attend Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Her journey from a working-class family to the White House serves as inspiration for many first generation students.


According to the First Generation Foundation, only 11% of first generation college students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years compared to 55% of their peers with college-educated parents. This disparity highlights the need for targeted support services for first generation students.


In conclusion, being a first generation college student is a remarkable accomplishment that comes with its share of challenges and triumphs. By persevering through adversity and seeking out support, first generation students can achieve their educational and career goals while paving the way for future generations.

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