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Resources for First Generation College Students

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So you’re the first in your family to go to college. Congratulations! Your endless nights of studying, countless extracurriculars and charming personality have finally netted you that acceptance letter.

Some students, however, must balance their schoolwork with the challenges of being a first-generation college student. Part of that challenge includes applying for scholarships in addition to college. Stanley Stewart, a 22-year-old VOX alum, founded a support organization for first-gen college students, 1vyG, after his own challenging experience. “A defining moment for me was writing and submitting my essays for the Gates Millennium Scholarship,” he shared in an email to VOX. “There were eight essays, and it took months of hard work to understand the process, write and edit my essays, and get all of the necessary recommendations together.”

Stewart started 1vyG in 2014 when he was at Brown University to “bring together first-gen students, experts in higher ed, and college administrators to help identify, implement and share the best practices for supporting first-generation college students.”

You might think it’s smooth sailing after you accept your offer of admission, but that’s not quite the case. According to The Washington Post, the hardest part is far from over. You crossed the first hurdle, but while you’re in college you have to overcome more than just academic challenges. College is a major life change for most students, let alone those who haven’t had parents who’ve already navigated the system.

Luckily, there are many organizations in addition to Stewart’s 1vyG that recognize the trials and triumphs of the first-generation college student and are here to help. Here are some other resources that’ll help you get into college and enjoy the college years.

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Fastweb is a general scholarship site, but using it may cause you to realize that many scholarships out there target first-generation college students. Some scholarships and programs allow to you fly to visit certain colleges for free and attend conferences about colleges admissions (Questbridge is one such program). Other programs are for everyone to apply to but give first generation students special consideration.

FirstGen Fellows

If you’re a first-generation student with a passion for social justice, you might want to consider applying for the FirstGen Fellows. The program provides internships in Washington D.C. internships to selected fellows and invites them to participate in an advocacy-based curriculum that includes strategies for fundraising, lobbying and creating professional success. Fellows receive a $1,500 stipend as well as hands-on experience with three social justice agencies. The site also lists further resources for first-generation students based on state.

First Generation Foundation

The First Generation Foundation isn’t quite as student focused as some of the other sites, but it still has valuable resources. The site offers links to resources for academic preparation and college rankings. It also provides links to other first-generation organizations and lists scholarships that are geared toward first-generation students.

First Generation Student

This website offers first-generation students tips on all aspects of college life, from admissions to life after college. The website walks you through planning for college admissions and finding a college that fits you, as well as offering tips on how to pay for school and how to succeed afterward. First Generation Student also has a blog of first generation students’ experiences and how-to advice.

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I’m First

A website where you can search for colleges and read blog posts from current first gen students who want to share their experiences. The blog covers everything from personal stories about being first gen to practical tips on how to do things like appeal your financial aid award and build a resume.

The college search tool offers stats that first generation college students are likely to want to know, such as the percentage of first gen students at a particular school. The site also includes information like:

  • how likely students are to return for their second year of college
  • the six-year graduation rate
  • and the six-year graduation rate for underrepresented minorities, like African Americans, Latinos and American Indians

It also lists specific programs a particular college has that cater to the needs of first-generation students, as well as links to the college’s admission, financial aid and academic support pages. You have the option of making an account to save your information.

Other first-gen students

Sometimes when you’re embarking on a journey by yourself, it helps to know that the road has been travelled before. Whether you’re in high school or college, reach out to the other first-generation students at your school. Lean on each other during hard times and celebrate your joys together. Your peers will help you feel at home and realize that you’re never alone.

Stewart, who recently graduated from Brown University, advised: “I’d also encourage students to find out if there is an organization for first-generation college students on their campus, and start one if there isn’t!”

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He also said, “Lastly, be proactive in bringing family along with you on your journey as you learn and change.” There’s no need to journey alone.

Related Story: Riven Mendoza, 17-year-old valedictorian of Creekside High School’s class of 2016 shares what it’s like to be a first-generation valedictorian and a first-generation citizen.

Arlena​ ​McClenton​, 19, ​is​ ​a​ ​ ​sophomore​ ​at​ ​Barnard​ ​College.​ ​She​ ​loves​ ​writing, ​reading and exploring the city​.​ ​Say​ ​hi​ ​on​ ​Twitter​ ​@lenamcclenton.

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