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What are the advantages of being first generation?

spotup18spotup18 8 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
I’m a first generation college applicant. Neither of my parents even went to high school. I know that being first gen is an advantage, but how exactly?? Like, what changes in the admissions officer’s mind when they see that I’m first gen? In what ways do they evaluate me differently that would give me an advantage?
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Replies to: What are the advantages of being first generation?

  • vonlostvonlost 18715 replies14158 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited July 19
    Some schools believe it’s good to encourage education in those parts of the population that have not yet benefited from higher education. Some first gens may thus be admitted over similarly qualified others. It’s a bit of a potential admissions boost for that group, perhaps even filling a category of admissions.
    edited July 19
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  • NYC2018nycNYC2018nyc 152 replies9 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    There had been some articles recently about how first gen kids struggled at college, how students had worked so hard to get to college, but often dropped out before graduation. Schools decided to help support these students.
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  • CaMom13CaMom13 1855 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 19
    It's a "hook" - something that differentiates you from students with your same stats. There are also certain scholarships at many schools established for first generation students. The idea is that students with college educated parents got a leg up academically from early on in life so first gen kids probably have *even* more potential than their high school record shows.

    You want to find a school that recognizes the challenges facing a first gen student - I think that's probably a more important question to ask than if they'll consider your status as a hook. It can be very lonely and isolating to be the only kid in college whose parents don't really understand what you're doing there. Cultural expectations can also be a problem. You will likely have more personal hurdles to overcome than the students who take the opportunity for a college education for granted. My husband was the first in his family to go to school and he ended up with a PhD in electrical engineering. He had a wonderful time in college but it was pretty stressful to have no family who supported the process so that's why I say looking for a school with good support is important.
    edited July 19
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  • sybbie719sybbie719 20720 replies1996 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited July 20
    @camom13 wrote:
    It's a "hook" - something that differentiates you from students with your same stats.
    Actually, being first gen is not a hook; it is a tip factor that is usually used in combination with other things like being academically and economically disadvantaged or having limited experience to college access.
    However, more high schools and community based organizations are becoming more involved and creating initiatives for college access through trip initiatives, running start, bottom line, SEO, etc.
    edited July 20
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33560 replies367 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Being first gen doesn't automatically mean poor, not encouraged, no frame of reference. In itself, it doesn't "boost" accomplishments above others. It doesn't mean they lower the standards and take under qualified kids.

    Not all first gens suffer in college. Many have had advantages due to their parents' accomplishments. Many have siblings who've gone to impressive colleges. Many of these kids have their own impressive resumes.

    I think the difference to recognize is when kids are low SES, but still busted themselves to get ahead, in the right ways, taken advantage of the many great mentoring programs, and come out on top. They learned self advocacy and seem likely to take advantage of college support.
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  • guava123guava123 14 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    In my state if you are first generation you attend free at our community college through the promise program. Many first generation students take advantage of the program and advance to higher institutions.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29255 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It depends upon the school, program, scholarship , etc whether it means anything at all to being a true hook.
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  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 3986 replies86 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    For UCs and CSUs in California, it's definitely an admissions boost. Not super much, but it could potentially mean the difference between getting in and not getting in, if you're a borderline admissions case.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77771 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 20
    For UCs and CSUs in California, it's definitely an admissions boost. Not super much, but it could potentially mean the difference between getting in and not getting in, if you're a borderline admissions case.

    UCs do consider first generation status in holistic admission reading.

    CSUs generally consider only (recalculated) GPA and SAT or ACT (superscore) to calculate an eligibility index for; applicants are then ranked by this eligibility index for admission to the campus or specific majors, with preferences for state residents and local area residents in most cases (some campuses and majors are open to all applicants who meet baseline CSU eligibility). CPSLO uses its own formula (see https://mca.netlify.com/ ); it considers whether parents graduated from high school.

    https://lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/3724 has some information (not admissions) on first generation students at California public colleges and universities. Note the differences in definition of "first generation". The community colleges define "first generation" as no parent or guardian has ever attended college (42-55% of community college students, depending on data source), while CSU and UC define "first generation" as neither parent has a bachelor's degree (54% of CSU new frosh and 46% of California resident UC undergraduates).
    edited July 20
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  • juilletjuillet 12637 replies161 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    I actually wouldn't say being first generation is an "advantage." It may be a minor factor in admissions at some places that want to increase diversity and try to help students overcome systemic disadvantage. There are also some scholarships for which first gen students are the only qualified applicants, or for which they have a significant advantage.

    But the reason for these things is that colleges recognize that being first generation is actually, on average, a significant disadvantage for getting into, doing well in, and graduating from college. As others have pointed out, first gen students are less likely to do all of those things. Since their parents didn't go to college, they don't (on average) have the same kinds of resources at their disposal and knowledgeable, supportive environment at home to help them gain admission to college - and how to navigate through college once they're there. I was first gen and there's so many things you don't know when you're applying that you can't get help from your parents on. I didn't grow up with the expectation that I would go to college (although many first gen students do, so that's not universal). There were no conversations about applying, about career goals, no college visits before senior year. I didn't even know how admissions WORKED - I didn't know what the SATs were or how to do financial aid forms or anything like that. And...neither did my parents. I had to seek out that information on my own, mostly through the Internet. (My HS counselors were a little bit of a help, but since most of the kids in my high school were ALSO first gen, economically disadvantaged, and unlikely to go to college anyway, most of their help was restricted to admissions to local community colleges or maybe a less selective public university in my home state.)*

    While first gen doesn't automatically mean economically disadvantaged, there is a correlation, since high school graduates on average make less money (and are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed) than college graduates. Not all first gens struggle, but they are statistically more likely to.

    *This is why I ended up joining CC in the first place! I didn't find it until my sophomore year in college, but I thought it was great and wanted to help others uncover the information I didn't find out and learn until I hung out here. Some of the same posters who still post in these forums are folks I learned a lot about admissions and financial aid from back when I was 19 and clueless :)
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2378 replies5 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "Neither of my parents even went to high school."
    If your grades and test scores are competitive, it's a big advantage. I recently attended an admissions session at selective college and the admissions officer highlighted, in a big way, the percent of the class that was first gen, even more than the percentage that were minorities. Adcoms love to tout first-gen students as a way of feeling good about themselves and showing they're contributing to social mobility. It can't make an uncompetitive applicant competitive, but it can be a huge tiebreaker among applicants that are considered competitive.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33560 replies367 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    C'mon, it's not about "feeling good about themselves." Nor is it as simple as a tiebreaker. Many of these kids have the drives, the ability to self advocate, family context that does emphasize education, experiences, and accomplishments. It's wrong to paint first gens as all lost in the woods. Many are kids truly deserving opportunity. The issue is do colleges offer the support they need, once there. An increasing number do. A number also proactively offer it.

    You'd need a view of these kids. Juillet is a great example, despite not initially knowing the ropes. Kudos to her and others.
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