First Generation College Student: Scholarships, Challenges & Benefits

Did you know, around 40% students in UC-Santa Barbara are first-generation in their families to attend college? Well, this is something that many universities feel proud of. These students are generally different from other students, with lower economic backgrounds and developed in poverty.

However, according to research, a first generation college student holds numerous strengths and tends to be more satisfied with more powerful learning skills as compared to the non-first-generation college students. Due to these specifications, these students are offered with multiple scholarships to complete their degrees. In the meanwhile, the first-gen students often face several challenges.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about first generation college students along with their scholarships, benefits, challenges, and other perspectives.

What is a First Generation College Student?

A first generation college graduate is the first person in the family who has acquired a bachelor’s degree. Their parents or anyone in the ancestors have never completed at least an undergraduate degree.

According to Whitley, the term first-gen students refer to those students whose parents have never obtained an at least four-year degree. As per a report of National Center of Educational Statistics in 2018, approximately one-third of college students are first-generation.

These students usually come from minorities with low-income backgrounds but hold a balanced identity and other characteristics that differ from one another. Since these students do not have any prior experience about college, they feel hesitant and seek professors’ assistance regarding the college work.

Scholarship Opportunities for First Generation College Graduate

Getting an opportunity for higher education is a significant level of education. However, students availing these opportunities for the first time in the entire family are provided with several grants and scholarships for being the First in Family Scholarships. Nonetheless, if you are that “First” in your family, these scholarships would help them get higher education.

Essentially, the first generation college student scholarships are funded by both private and public sectors and managed as per the criteria of the student accordingly. However, the students who get qualified for the First in Family Scholarships will be granted with a series of opportunities.

The requirements for the first-gen college graduate scholarships include a minimum GPA that is above average and financial conditions to associate with the college.

Below is a list of six best scholarships explicitly designed for first generation college students to help you initiate your college life.

1. W.O. Davis Memorial Scholarship

The W.O. Davis Memorial Scholarship was created to offer financial aid to Woodford County High School graduating students who can prove a serious necessity for scholarship and have a total GPA of 3.0 or above. A first-generation college student is given priority to this scholarship. The grant amount for this non-renewable scholarship changes every year. However, students can apply for this scholarship by April 22, 2023.

2. Next Young Leaders Program

The Next Young Leaders Program is an all-new initiative designed to give high school students an opportunity to understand the college application procedure, get expert guidance, and receive a stipend for their college study.

One $20,000 scholarship is given to a deserving candidate who demonstrates management potential and academic distinction. Five $1,000 grants are given to the selected students who are non-natives of the US. The last date to apply for this scholarship is January 30, 2023.

3. Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship

By creating an atmosphere where everyone may succeed academically and professionally, the Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship helps to build a sufficient number of brilliant students who completely portray their relevant field. The yearly scholarship grant from Stantec is $200,000 every year. It is dedicated to offering financial aid to members of historically marginalized and people related to BIPOC communities.

Scholarship amounts vary from $1,500 and $10,000, and the number of awards depends on the specific conditions stated by candidates. There are also ten paid internships available to applicants (locations to be revealed annually). Applicants can apply for this scholarship by October 14, 2022.

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4. The Miranda Scholarship

The Miranda Scholarship at Rhode Island College helps first-generation poor students pursue their graduation degrees in the arts program. This Family scholarship program has made it feasible for rising students to receive a two-year scholarship in recognition of Lin-Manuel and his achievements. However, the candidates must be full-time students majoring in music, drama, or dance with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and be qualified for a federal Pell Grant. The application dates vary each year to apply for this scholarship.

5. University of Washington Diversity Scholarship

The University of Washington Diversity Scholarship is available for four years to deserving, yet intelligent students from communities that are typically neglected in higher education. The requirements to apply to this scholarship includes academic performance, Washington residency, family background, volunteer work, financial conditions, being connected to the marginalized group, and students pursuing higher education for the first time in their families. The aspiring students can apply for this program by January 15, 2023.

6. The Women with Promising Scholarship

Women in North Texas now have the opportunity to start over on their path to higher education through the Women with Promise Scholarship Program. Students from Dallas and Collin areas who are enrolled full-time or part-time in academic programs at recognized organizations of higher education there or who intend to do so can get support. Additionally, they need to be sponsored by a nonprofit institution.

Women who face the highest financial hardships are given priority while they develop the job skills required to sustain themselves and their families. The funding focuses on helping women who are in serious financial trouble and need both a degree and money to improve their employability in the future. The date to apply for this first generation college student scholarship program varies.

We have also listed some colleges for first-generation students here.

First Generation College Student Challenges

Along with multiple scholarship opportunities, a first generation college student encounters various sorts of challenges and struggles, such as social, psychological, financial, and academic challenges. Nonetheless, some of the major first generation college student challenges are listed below:

Social Challenges

Social Discrimination

More than 1/3rd of first-generation students are from ethnic or cultural minority backgrounds. So, they must have to conquer racial inequality and disparity. Due to their social and financial disadvantage and minority identity, they may be the focus of bigotry. Their psychological state and academic ability may suffer as a result of these events, which can also cause isolation, solitude, rejection, and depression.

Social Isolation

First-generation students may become isolated as a result of their insecurities and fears about being accepted. The sense of isolation becomes worse of the possibility that they won’t be able to attend campus-based social gatherings and distant events like summer vacation due to a lack of financial means.

Psychological Challenges


First-generation students might not be as familiar with how to use the resources that are provided to them, such as tutoring, career opportunities, medical options, and internships. When it comes to these facilities, their friends who have relatives with college degrees frequently obtain advice from their parents or older siblings.


Many first-generation college students feel guilty about abandoning their family and sometimes their financial commitments. These first-gen students frequently experience regret at having opportunities that other family members have never been to college, as well as regret over feeling as though they are rejecting their background and culture.


First-generation students frequently experience feelings of embarrassment and imposter syndrome while attending a college. This is typical and logical if there are no established family norms against attending college. But this makes it more difficult for them to feel accepted by their classmates.


Although the experience of college life is full of pleasure and vigor, it can also be tinged with stress and depression over academic success, social integration, and financial considerations, such as debt repayment.

Financial Challenges

Low Income

First-generation students usually come from lower-income backgrounds as compared to other students. Therefore, they might require bigger loans and grants. Additionally, they might need to work while in college in order to pay their financial responsibilities, which would add to their stress and divert their attention from studies. According to data, financial difficulties are the main cause of the dropouts of first-generation students.

Academic Challenges

Complex Educational System

The educational system can be intimidating and intricate. First-generation college students frequently struggle to navigate administration. They can struggle to find their supervisors as well. Supervisors are crucial because they assist students and guide them in navigating the system. First-gen college students, unlike other students, cannot rely on knowing about their parents’ or other relatives and friends’ experiences in college to help them overcome these hindrances.

Academic Standardizations

Some first-generation students might have attended lower-class secondary schools or scored less in tests. Because of this, they may lack the same academic competence as their counterparts who are not first-generation.

Ways to Overcome First Generation College Student Challenges

If you have been facing any of the aforementioned challenges while getting into college for the first time in your family, try out these methods to conquer these struggles.

Talk About your Experiences

Speaking with other first-generation college students about your fears and anxieties can be a huge comfort. Students often benefit from speaking with others who are going through the same situations so they may exchange experiences and offer support to each other. Advisers who have completed college can be more helpful. With challenging inquiries, mentors from the organization can be gratefully supportive.

Look for Peers Guidance

To overcome the academic, financial, and social challenges of college, seek the advice of understanding classmates, instructors, and authorities. The two attributes that have the strongest positive correlation with graduation are parental support and integration into the campus environment.

Get Professional Assistance

There are many services available to help students score higher in their classes. These students can hire someone to take their online class and boost their confidence by scoring the best in the classroom. Scholarly Help is explicitly ideal for first-generation students because of its extremely affordable services.

First Generation College Student Benefits

So, are you ready to become the first generation college student in your family? Once you’ve decided to become one, you may get into some hard situations, but holding a higher education degree has a unique charm. Other than scholarships, the first generation college student benefits are as follows:

You’ll be an Inspiration to your Family

Perhaps since they have never been to college because of a lack of opportunities. And now, you are being recognized to attend and earn a college degree along with learning new things that you actually fascinated. There would be more probability that the younger members of your family would think of following in your footsteps. Since you are the first graduate in your family, you’ll be the first unit to make the chain of education in your family.

You’ll be Able to Learn New Skills

Initially, attending college may seem useless to you because of several financial conditions you might have faced. But, once you complete and earn your degree, you will end up learning numerous practical skills that will be helpful during your career. You’ll get to develop skills like time management, critical thinking, communication, organization, supervision, etc.

Take Away

Being the first generation college student in your family, you should prepare yourself for several hardships in your academic life. These academic barriers are from social, financial, mental, and educational aspects. However, keep in mind to hold emotional strength, determination, and diligence in order to successfully acquire the degree.

In addition, once you will pass through the college fruitfully, you will observe a drastic change to your knowledge, awareness, and understanding both personally and professionally. Not only this, it would also give a boost to your self-confidence. Being the first graduate in your family, you’ll set an example for the existing and next generation. The doors towards a successful career would be wide open for you as well.

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