What’s it like being a first-generation college student?

The college process is not an easy one, especially for first-generation students who often have to complete the process independently. The term “first-generation” applies to anyone whose parents didn’t pursue a post-secondary degree. 

Unlike other students, first-gen students often learn about the college journey as they go. There’s a lot of unknowns, but with time and research, anyone can get through it. 

This article will allow you to learn about what’s it like being a first-gen college student.

What’s it like being a first-generation college student?

The vast majority of first-generation students come from minority groups and low-income families, which poses its own set of challenges. 

Similar to traditional college students, first-generation (first-gen) students face many challenges while pursuing higher education.


One of the many challenges these students face is the limited knowledge of how higher education works. 

Financial Aid 

The cost of attending college is another challenge first-gen college students face. Navigating the financial aid process can be both tricky and confusing for students and parents. 

As first-gen college students, you will need to introduce your parents to the financial aid process. Be sure to keep you, parents, in the loop of all your financial decision as they will be eager to learn and help.

To help you with the financial aid process, visit Frank’s How to Pay for College page. 


College classes will challenge your way of thinking and push you out of your comfort zone. As long as you stay focus and ask for help – you will finish strong. 

Student Life

Many students have to juggle school and work. These students also have to deal with the pressure of being the first in their families to attend school. Some may even feel the need to serve as role models for their younger siblings. 

Although the first-gen student may experience more roadblocks, there are also benefits for being such. 



There are numerous resources available specifically for first-gen students. These started to recognize and support the hard work of said students. 

Learn more about the resources you may qualify for by reading our article: Resources for first-generation college students applying for college for the first time.

Helpful tips to consider 

Here are some tips from a first-generation college student’s perspective:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – There may be times when you might feel overwhelmed, but during those times, you’re not alone. Family, friends, and school officials are more than willing to help any way they can.
  • Use your resources – Similar to asking for help, don’t hesitate to use all your resources. Your school has tons of programs.
  • Don’t give up – Yes, you read that correctly. The odds will and are stacked against you, but it’s up to you to keep pushing through. It will get hard, but you have made it this far, and it will get better.
  • Network – Take every opportunity to meet new people and network. College is the perfect place to meet people from various backgrounds that will recognize and support your effort.  
  • Join campus activities – There will be times when you might feel isolated. Thankfully, every college offers a wide variety of events and clubs around campus. Take advantage of these activities to familiarize yourself with the college culture. 

Although this may be a brand new experience for students and their families, it’s rewarding. This is your opportunity to shine and make the most of this exciting new journey.