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Low-income, first-generation students have — finally — established a beachhead at Ivy League school

Dave_BerryDave_Berry CC Admissions Expert Posts: 2,732 Senior Member
"... For first-generation students, getting to college is only part of a long and often difficult path to a bachelor’s degree, especially at America’s most prestigious schools. This is a post about the progress “first-gens” have made at Ivy League schools — and the obstacles that remain for them to be successful.

The essay below was written by Laura Pappano, a first-generation Ivy League student and an education journalist who also writes about gender and sports. She is a regular contributor to the New York Times Education Life section. The essay was first published by the Hechinger Report, an independent news outlet focused on innovation and inequality." ...


Replies to: Low-income, first-generation students have — finally — established a beachhead at Ivy League school

  • NinaBlueNinaBlue Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
    Great point Ninakaterina. Also at one point does "the first generation" stop being the focus. It was one thing in 1940 when 5% of the population had college degrees, but now its approaching 40%. In another decade it will probably be half the population. So if your parents were smart enough to get into an ivy you can get in as a legacy, or if they didn't get a college degree you can get in as a "first gen" but if they were somewhere in between ...
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 11,917 Senior Member
    @ninakatarina I wonder whether some top schools run the danger of becoming very much two-tiered socially, with a very wealthy group and a very poor group but few kids whose families are in-between. We've been cautioned, as middle class parents, against applying for meets-need schools because their definition of need might not match our personal definition.

    I suppose it depends on the school, whether they make places for the low-income students by decreasing full pays or increase aid into the upper income tiers.

    The more generous schools already give some aid to families making $200K or more.

    I don't think meets-needs schools necessarily define need for low income families the way they would define it either. I suspect that is true no matter what the family income/assets are.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,160 Senior Member
    Also, among those who get financial aid at those private universities, most are not Pell grant recipients, so the upper half of the income range (excluding the no-financial-aid students from the top 2-3% or so) is still better represented than the lower half of the income range. Of course, those with no financial aid from the top 2-3% are extremely overrepresented at those private universities compared to the other 97-98%.
  • TooOld4SchoolTooOld4School Registered User Posts: 3,201 Senior Member
    edited March 24
    That's not surprising when the top 2-3% of income correlates highly with the top 2-3% of students. So I would not call them overrepresented, except for the donut hole middle class families who think a full price Ivy is not a good value compared to something else.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 4,543 Senior Member
    @ninakatarina: The two tiered social divide is a reality at many prep boarding schools. Not so much of a concern at elite colleges & universities because of the larger student bodies & due to increased work/intern/research opportunities that take up most of one's free time.
  • ccprofandmomof2ccprofandmomof2 Registered User Posts: 334 Member
    While many first-gen are lower income, it's important to remember that the term first-gen doesn't equate to "poor." There are children of successful middle-class realtors, contractors, small business owners, etc. whose kids are heading off to college, too, and who bring a really great perspective to the classroom environment.
  • collegemomjamcollegemomjam Registered User Posts: 1,563 Senior Member
    I personally was a first gen applicant back in 1984. All four of my grandparents came through Ellis Island from Italy. Neither of my parents had degrees (mom didn't even have HS degree, dad had some college but never finished.)

    Most of my cousins didn't go to college, but my parents moved to a town in Westchester County in NYC suburbs where people went to college. My high school was college prep and all of my friends were applying to college, many of them really good ones.

    My best friend and I both applied to literally the same schools....I was first gen, she wasn't. We had nearly identical stats. I was 3rd, she was 4th. I think her score might have been slightly higher than mine (the second time....I did better the first time and then her wealthy college educated parents sent her to Princeton review....my parents didn't even know what SAT's were, seriously). I hand wrote my applications. She had them all typed.

    Neither of us ended up at Ivies or very top schools, but I got waitlists cat many of them and she was outright rejected from ALL of them....so my question is, was First Gen given a bump then too? I ended up getting into Cornell (for that sophomore admission thing they still do today), but I didn't go. I often wondered why many of them (Georgetown, Penn and Cornell) gave me a chance but just outright rejected her. Always wondered if it was because I was first gen.

  • labegglabegg Registered User Posts: 2,546 Senior Member
    @Dave_Berry if you're are going to post an article or essay for discussion perhaps one not behind a paywall would be nice?

    You are welcome...

  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 11,917 Senior Member
    @labegg I often think the point of these posts is to encourage subscriptions to the paywall site.
  • knight_commanderknight_commander Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Why does this matter? Who cares if your parents went to college?
  • hebegebehebegebe Registered User Posts: 2,305 Senior Member
    Can we please keep this civil?
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 11,917 Senior Member
    @knight_commander In the US, most colleges, perhaps all, consider it part of their mission to improve society overall. To educate 'the masses", especially those talented students who come from families that didn't have the opportunity for higher learning. If you poke around the mission statements of most any college, you will see this stated in various ways.
    The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education.
    Amherst College educates men and women of exceptional potential from all backgrounds so that they may seek, value, and advance knowledge, engage the world around them, and lead principled lives of consequence.
    Yale is committed to improving the world today and for future generations through outstanding research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice. Yale educates aspiring leaders worldwide who serve all sectors of society.

    In practice most selective colleges have far more children from wealthy and/or educated families than not, but they try to reach all, with varying levels of commitment and success.
  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 2,740 Senior Member
    Unfortunately its already a two tier system. There are numerous articles on how lower income students feel marginalized at top tier schools.
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