What It Means To Be A First-Generation College Student

first-gen college studentA first-gen student is a nickname for a first generation college student–someone who grew up in a home where both parents did not attend a four year college, where one parent has an AA only, or where one or both parents attempted some college but did not finish it. If your parents went to community college ONLY, or a technical school, or to a NON four year school in another country, you are still a first-gen. If your parent *did* go to college but they passed away and you lived without them for more than half of your life, then you are a first-gen.

If your parents graduated from *any* four year Bachelors degree-granting college or university, anywhere in the world, then you are *not* a first-gen.

A first-gen is a student who is going to a four year college or university as the first generation in their household/family to do so.

You can be a first-gen if you are the first person from your family to attend college, or if your sibling went and you are going, too.  The important part is that the parents who raised you did *not* attend, or that they did not finish, and you are doing so.  Getting the first four year bachelors degree in your family makes you a first-gen, even if your sibling is getting one, too. Your generation is changing your family history. That makes you a first-gen.

Please read all of the comments below this blog before you write to ask me if you are a first-gen.  🤓

Being a first-gen can be scary, intimidating and confusing because you are like a pioneer, going somewhere with no guide and finding your own way.

This used to be a lot more confusing and lonely, but in recent years there has been much awareness around first-gen students and now campuses are creating programs to support and guide us, and other first-gens are doing all they can to help those who come after them.

Being a first-gen is also really exciting.  You may be the first from your family to go to college, and you may have to figure out the whole college system on your own, but it is SO worth it!  College is fascinating.  You can learn about any subject that interests you.  You can do research, and meet others who share your interests, and work alongside faculty members who have been studying a subject for 10, 20 or 30 years.

You can come to understand and appreciate the history of your favorite subject and learn about all of the brilliant scholars who have forged the path for you.  At the same time, you can learn about all of the most recent developments in your discipline and you can think creatively about ways to push those developments even further.

From a practical standpoint, college prepares you for the workplace and a college degree enables you to get more interesting, higher paying jobs than you can get without a degree.  Over the course of a lifetime, a person with a college degree will earn one million dollars more on average than a person without a college degree!

One of the greatest benefits of a college degree is that you get to choose a career that you are passionate about, develop your skills in an area you find very interesting, and then go to work each day doing something you chose and love.  That’s priceless.

For all of the confusing bits about adjusting to and navigating through college, ask any first-gen graduate and they will tell you that is SO worth it!  College opens your mind, inspires, you sharpens you, and challenges you.  Most importantly, it allows you to achieve your dreams.

Please read all of the comments below before you write to ask me if you are a first-gen.  Please.  After you read this and those, you shouldn’t need to ask me or anyone else. If you must write to me, please greet me, say thank you, and sign your name. Courtesy counts!  🤓

Yay, college!

Susanna

Comments

  1. If my mom went to grad school in the US but not to college am I a first gen college student?

    1. Hi Cristina!

      The standard definition of being a first gen is that your parents didn’t go to college anywhere, so if your mom did grad school (which is awesome!) that means she had to go to college.

      Unless you mean she did a special kind of school? What kind of school was her grad school?

      Best,
      Susanna

  2. I have a mom who went to a 2 year college (no degree, just diploma) overseas, and my father dropped out of college. Does that make me a first-generation applicant since I will be the first child to attend a US 4-year college.

    1. Hello C.A.!

      Yes, if you are the first person who will attend and graduate from a 4 year college or university, then you are a First Gen. Be sure that your applications show this clearly, because colleges want to help First Gens get to and through college. I’m a First Gen, too, so remember, you can do this and it is worth it. Ask questions when you get to campus and never be shy about what you don’t know. The other freshmen have never been to college before either, so you are not alone, and there are always kind people on campus who want to help you understand and succeed.

      Yay, college!
      Susanna

  3. My two older siblings graduated college, my mom had one year at business school but no degree. Dad is only hs grad. Am I first gen?

    1. Author

      Dear Taylor,

      Since your parents did not attend four year university, then yes, you and your siblings are considered First Generation students. Be sure to list your parents’ education levels on your applications, wherever it is requested, and be precise.

      If your mom has one year of business school but no undergraduate Bachelors degree, then it sounds to me like she attended a technical or two year college for just one year, so yes, you would still be a First Gen.

      I am a First Gen, too, and I’m so excited for the exciting educational adventure that you are about to go on! Learn all you can and then do all you can to help make our world a better place.

      Best,
      Susanna

  4. I got a question.If my mom went to a college in a different state(Oregon) and I didn’t know it until 1015 She died after6 months of me being there.She died on October 1st 2015.My brothers never went to college.She had went for her GED when she had died.She was planning to start her own business.I am going no for Creative Writing in English with a Concentration in EEnglishShe never went to college for her college credit,but for her GED first.

    1. Author

      Hello Walter,

      I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your mother. That is such a difficult thing, and it sounds like she was a real inspiration to you.

      I think you are asking if you qualify as a First Gen? Yes, it sounds as if you do. Be sure to tell your colleges honestly about your parents’ levels of educations. I’m assuming your father did not go to college since you do not mention it.

      Also, I was an English major and simply loved it. Do consider double majoring since you are interested in Creative Writing and that can be a tough place to find work. A double major will cost no more money if you are clever and efficient in scheduling your classes, and it will enable you to graduate with two diplomas in the place of one. In this way you can have a steady, stable day job while you find work in creative writing.

      Let me know how things go!
      Stay strong, prioritize your school, and make your Mom proud. Our loved ones are always watching over and protecting us.

      All the best,
      Susanna

  5. My mother graduated with a bachelors degree overseas. However, her degree isn’t worth much over here in the US. She only has 3/4’s of the required credits that a US-equivalent of the degree would require.
    So would I still be considered a first-gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Ankit! Technically you are not a First Gen because she graduated from a college, but in the additional info section you can explain that she cannot work in her profession here in the US, as her international degree is not recognized, if that is in fact the case. If she is working in her area of studies here in the US, then don’t write that paragraph and you wouldn’t be a First Gen. I hope that makes sense! Colleges DO understand that kids whose parents went to school overseas are still new to the US system, so they will certainly take that into consideration. Also, the Common App allows you to put in any university that your parents attended, anywhere in the world, so be sure to do that. Cheers, Susanna

  6. My mom went to a community college but didn’t graduate, will I still be a first generation student?

    1. Author

      Hi Rosanna!

      This question has been asked and answered a few times in the comments, but yes, you are a First Gen because your mom did not graduate.

      Susanna

  7. My mother attended a technical school but left early and my father attempted college, i believe, twice but never completed more than two years and has no degree. Would i be considered a first-generation college student? I understand that my parents attempted higher education but they have degrees earned.

    1. Author

      Hi Nick, this question has been answered before so I am going to edit the blog. Yes, you are a First Gen because they have no degrees. Best, Susanna

  8. Hi. My mom died and my dad left me before I was born; my mom didn’t finish community college during her life and my dad got kicked out of college for using drugs. However, my grandparents have degrees. Am I still a considered a first generation student since they’re technically not my immediate family?

    1. Author

      Hi Kiersten, I am so sorry to hear about your parents, and thank God for wonderful grandparents. Your situation is definitely unique. I think you do qualify as a First Gen and that you should tell your story in your college applications. There is a box at the end of each application for Additional Info and you can put your family story there, since it has likely given you strength and taught you much. You may also choose to use your family story as your main essay, which you could do. Colleges care about you kids, and they do want to know the truth of what you have been through. I hope this helps, and I am excited for your college adventures! All the best, Susanna

  9. Sorry for asking this question if it has already been asked. I couldn’t find the question above. I have been confused for a long time, and I never considered myself as first gen, because my dad went to a community college and obtained a certificate, but now I’m questioning if I’m first gen since I’m the first one who went to a 4 years college and graduate?

    1. Author

      Hi Susan! Yes, since your dad did not do a 4 year degree you are a First Gen. I’ll update the blog to say this. Cheers, Susanna

  10. Hello,
    I am a parent. I attended a 2 year, fully accredited fashion design college over 20yrs. ago, but I didn’t graduate. I want to return to school to take the two classes I need to earn my AA degree, and eventually work towards a Bachelors in the years to come. My daughter is starting the college application process now as a First Gen applicant. If I earn my AA degree, then my Bachelor’s while she’s started college, will that affect her negatively? Do I need to wait unt she graduates from undergrad?

    1. Author

      Hi Rosi!

      No worries here. Go ahead and go back to school. You two might finish your degrees at the same time, or she might finish before you do, but she will still be a First Gen because she is the first kiddo in her family to go to a four year college and live on campus, etc etc. 🙂

      I’m so excited that you are going back!!
      Congratulations!!
      Yay, college!
      Susanna

  11. My husband and I are both college graduates. We adopted our granddaughter, who will graduate high school in 2019. Neither of her physical parents graduated from college. Is our granddaughter considered a first generation?

    1. Author

      Hi Blanche! So sorry for the delay. October is my busiest month of the year. 🙂 I would say that technically your granddaughter is not first gen, but she should certainly tell her story to each college because colleges really want to hear the truth of the background situation of each student. All the best, Susanna

  12. Hi, I am a parent. I graduated from a university in another country with a Law degree.
    I called one of the colleges my daughter is intending to apply and they said that she is first generation, because I have not graduated in an accredited school in the United States. Can you help clarify ??
    Thank you

    Paula

    1. Author

      Hi Paula, In truth you could call each school and ask as it is totally up to each to decide. I would say your daughter is first gen *technically* because your college was in another country, but in truth, she’s really probably not. 🙂 I mean that in the nicest way! She’s lucky to have a strong, educated mom! Best, Susanna

  13. Hi, if my mother has an associate degree, but my dad has not went to college, would I be considered first gen because they both have both completed four years.

    1. Author

      Hello, according to your post, neither of them has completed four years, so I’m not sure of what you mean. Cheers, Susanna

  14. So my mom has custody of me, and all my college apps site my mom and stepmom as my parents. Neither of them have a college degree. However, my dad went to a community college a couple years ago and got his bachelor’s. I don’t live with him, I see him less than once a year, and he isn’t listed on my college applications. Do I count as first-gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Amber! Yes, you are First Gen because the home where you live is not headed by a four-year college grad. 🙂 Cheers, Susanna

  15. One of my parents attended a four-year college but we don’t live with her and my dad didn’t go to college. Would I qualify as a first-gen college student?

    1. Author

      Hi Elizabeth! I think it depends a little on how much you see her. First Gen means that your life experience has been under the guidance of someone who was not able to go to college. Cheers, Susanna

  16. Both of my Parents went to college in another country but the both never completed college. Does that make me a First Gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Abhinav, Could you do me a favor and let me know where in the article this issue is unclear? Many thanks, Susanna

  17. So my brother is in college right now but if he applies for the scholarship can I still apply?

    1. Author

      Hi Serenity! I’m not sure what scholarship you are referring to? Cheers, Susanna

    1. Author

      Hi Serenity, but who is offering this scholarship, and where? You always need to give a person all of the details when you ask a question. 🙂
      Susanna

  18. Hello Susanna,
    I’m the parent of a high school senior and while I did not attend college, her deceased (when she was 9) father was a college graduate. Would my daughter qualify as first generation since she grew up with only me? Is this a situation that needs additional explanations when applying to colleges or for scholarships? Thanks for sharing your knowledge

    1. Author

      Hi Shelly! I think we need to look at the spirit of the law here and not the letter, per se. The concept of being First Gen means that you did not grow up in a home lead by college educated adult(s). So, since her dad passed away when she was 9, then he has not been in the home for half of her life, nor for all of her young adult life, so it would seem to me that she qualifies in the spirit of being First Gen. Cheers, Susanna

  19. How does being a qualifying first generation student help financially? Does it only help in admission process only? Thank you

    1. Author

      Hi Angela! Some schools do offer scholarships for First Gen kids. Cheers, Susanna

  20. I have a question on this, I got my Bachelor’s degree a couple of years ago, as an adult, when my son was a freshman in high school. Would he qualify for a first-generation college student? At a college fair that we went to someone told me that he might.

    1. Author

      Hi Debbi! I think that if we look at the spirit of the law and not the letter, then yes, he would qualify, as he was raised primarily in a home where his parents did not attend a 4 year college. Congrats to you, also! Cheers, Susanna

  21. My mother did not complete high school, but my father graduated with a 4 year degree. However, I lost my father when I was 10. My older sibling also only completed some community college. I have done everything myself in terms of education, especially since I am homeschooled. Am I first generation since I primarily grew up in a houshold with a parent with no degree?

    1. Author

      Hi Cynthia! I think so, yes. The definition means that you did not grow up in a home with a college educated parent, and since you lost your father, which I am sorry to hear about, then you qualify–especially as you did not have his influence during the age when we begin to seriously plan for and apply to college. So, yes, you, like many of us, are First Gen. All the best, Susanna

  22. So my father graduated from a two year college and received his associates and my mom is in school now (for three years now) to obtain here bachelor’s. However, I was the first in my immediate family to obtain my bachelors in chem. I feel like this makes me a first generation student. Am i correct? Also, when the time comes for my mom to receive her bachelors degree, will i still be a first generation student?

    1. Author

      Hi Joel! You will always be a First Gen because that is the way that you grew up. Best, Susanna

  23. My two siblings both went to college and got their bachelors and masters. Would I still be considered a first gen even though they’ve completed college and I’m still in high school?

    1. Author

      Hi! First=gen status has to do with your parents not having gone, so yes, you qualify. Best, Susanna

  24. My granddaughter will graduate in the spring of 2019. Her mother attended a four college but did not graduate and her father got his AA. Both of them as well as the parents were born in the US. Does my granddaughter qualify as a first generation?

    1. Author

      Hello Frances,

      Yes, as the article states, your granddaughter did not grow up in a home where the primary caregiver had a four year degree. Thus, she is a first gen.

      Best,
      Susanna

  25. Neither of my parents have any sort of degree and both only went to college for about a year. However two of my grandparents have 4 or 6 year degrees, do I count as first gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Georgia, this depends upon who raised you, so if you grew up with your parents, then yes. If your grandparents raised you in their house, then no. Can you tell me why you, and so many people, are asking this question? This has become a very popular blog post and while I’m happy to help, I’m a tad confused about the interest. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Susanna

  26. While in grade school and in high school my parents did not attend college. While I was attending my community college my parents went back to school through an accelerated program where they both obtained their bachelors degree. Would I still be considered a first generation college student since I was enrolled and attending college prior to their enrollment?

    1. Author

      Hi Kiahna, can you tell me more about their accelerated bachelors program? I’ve never heard of that. Thanks! Susanna

  27. Hello Susanna,

    My dad finished community college and then went to technical school for 2 years and graduated from there. Would this make me a first gen student? Thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Vicki, as this article states, since your dad does not have a 4 year degree, then yes, you are a first-gen. Can you let me know which part of this article did not make that clear? I would be very grateful. Best, Susanna

  28. hi! my mom only has her hs diploma, and my dad only had that too, but when i was about 9 or 10 he went back and earned his bachelors degree in business through online school. would i still be considered first gen or no?

    1. Author

      Hi Kiannah! I think yes and no. Yes, because you will be the first gen to live on campus, but technically sort of no since your dad has a degree, but I lean more toward yes since being first gen is about being a pioneer in a new place–so go with yes! 🙂 Susanna

  29. If my sister went to a Technical College and graduated but it wasn’t a four year degree or a four year college. Will I be considered first generation

    1. Author

      As the article states, being first gen depends upon your parents. Cheers, Susanna

  30. If a parent graduated from only a regionally accredited four year university, is the child considered a first-generation college student?

    1. Author

      Hi Rebecca! Sorry for this delayed reply. I’ve been traveling. I think you’ll need to use your gut instinct on this one. The letter of the law would say no, because the parents have a four year degree. But, if you feel the college isn’t quite nationally recognized or well-regarded, and if the student will be the first person to go to a traditional US four year university and will be experiencing something the parents have no ability to relate to or counsel on, then the logic is yes. Hope this helps! Susanna

  31. Hello,

    I graduated in 2004 with my bachelors and had 2 masters by 2010. My mom graduated with her bachelors in 2010. Someone told me that I was not first-gen college grad now that my mom has her bachelors. I definitely was considered first-gen when I was in school and have the lived-experience from childhood and early adulthood of being first-gen, but is my friend correct saying that I can’t call myself first-gen now? Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi Samantha! Your friend is wrong and you are right. 🙂 . You had that experience “first”, before your mom, soooo. There you have it. All the best, Susanna

  32. Hi Susanna! I know you have a lot of people asking you questions, but I read though the blog and comments and didn’t see my concern. My mom went to a 4 year collage and got her degrees. However my dad didn’t. Both parents are in my life. What does this make me? Thank you!

    1. Author

      Dear Olivia, As you were raised by a mom who had a degree, then you are, or will be, a college graduate. Your mom might be a first-gen if her parents did not attend college. Are you asking because of scholarships? All the best, Susanna

  33. Hello! So my mom did some business school and took some college courses while my dad only has a high school diploma. My brother also went to college way before me (15 year age difference) but he dropped out. Do I classify as first-gen? And it shouldn’t matter if my grandma went to college right?

    1. Author

      Hi Nicholas,

      This depends upon who raised you. If you were very close to your Gran and she set the example for you that college was possible and wise and normal, then you are not a first-gen. If you never met her and grew up primarily or exclusively in a home where college was not expected as normal, then you would be a first-gen. All the best, Susanna

  34. Hello Susanna,

    My mother went to school on and off throughout her life. When I was in kindergarten, she attended community college and received her AA. Later in life when I was in high school, she went through the University of Phoenix (primarily online) for her BSN. Now that I am in college, she went back to the University of Phoenix for her Master’s, and just finished this year.

    Would I be first generation despite her receiving higher education in a non-traditional route? I self-identify as first generation since she is not able to give me guidance or advice on college or my career plans.

    1. Author

      Dear Michelle,
      Yes, I do think you are a first gen because your mom’s college was nontraditional.
      All the best,
      Susanna

  35. So if I have my 4 year degree, but my husband, who is an immigrant, did not attend any college, do my children count as first gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Ann! No, if you have a degree, your kids are not first gen. Thanks! Susanna

  36. I grew up in the foster care system in Georgia. My biological family did not attend college. I just recently went through an adult adoption. My family (adopted family) has completed university. Do I qualify as first generation student?

    1. Author

      Hi Wade, I think you do qualify because you were raised by foster parents. 🙂
      Also, on each college application, they always ask if you were in foster care, so be sure to say yes because the colleges are very keen to help foster kids, orphans, and adopted kids. And I am very happy to answer all college questions you have. Keep pursuing your education! You will be so very glad that you did it! All the best, Susanna

  37. I should have looked this up before I went and graduated college because whenever I hear first person in the family to go college; I always thought of families for many and multiple generations were not able to go to college including cousins. I always thought I did not classify as a first generation college graduate due to my cousins (both sides of the family) or some family member in the family tree on my dad’s side probably graduated college before me despite my parents did not graduate college.

    In your opinion, why is this such a confusing topic?

    Also if my brother were to decide to go to college, would he be considered a first generation college student despite that I already graduated?

    1. Author

      Hi Sam! You and your brother would be first gen because your parents did not go. Your cousins don’t affect you in this matter. I’m not sure why it confuses people so much, to be honest! 🙂
      Keep going after your education! It’s the best decision ever.
      Yay, college!
      Susanna

  38. Hello there!
    I read your blog and I’m still confused about where I stand. Does being a first-gen college student refer to being the first in your family to go to a four-year college in the USA? My parents completed their degrees in Europe and when they came here, my dad got an Associates Degree and my mom got a GED. Would I still be considered as a first-gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Angie! If your parents got degrees in another country, then you are not technically a first gen. 🙂
      Hope this helps, Susanna

  39. Hello. My parents who raised me did not go to college. I was a single mom and raised my daughter who got her four year degree. NowI’m going back to school and I still don’t have parents that raised me that went to college-am I still considered a first generation?

    1. Author

      Hello Kris! Yes, you are a first gen yourself because you were not raised by parents who went to a 4 year college in the US. Getting your education is the best decision ever, so congrats and keep going! Cheers, Susanna

  40. Hi Susanna, I only recently went back to school with my family’s encouraging and graduated with Bachelor’s degree a year before my daughter college applications. Would that have negatively impacted her? Can she still be considered a first gen?

    1. Author

      Hi BR!

      I think your daughter is still a first gen because she grew up in a house where her parents did not have 4 year college degrees.

      Hope this helps!
      Susanna

  41. Hello,

    My mom received her B.A. when I was about 12 and my dad has a GED. Am I still considered a first-gen?
    Would it also make a difference if the institution where she received her degree from is not accredited in all states of the U.S.?

    Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Raquel!

      You are really on the fine line with this question. 🙂
      I think that since your mom’s school is not fully accredited that you can count as a first gen.

      Cheers,
      Susanna

  42. Hi Susanna!

    My mom technically obtained her bachelors degree (through a church-based institution) but now she is having to go back to school because the accreditation association that is over the school that she works at will not accept her degree. (Because the church-based institute was not accredited.) However, the college that she is attending right now is also not accredited, but the degrees are recognized by the accreditation association that the school that she works at uses.

    I am currently getting my AA, but I plan on transferring to another college to obtain my BA. Would I technically be a first generation student?

    I apologize if any of this confuses you or was already asked.

    Many thanks,

    Carissa

    1. Author

      Hi Carissa!

      I think this one is confusing, but if your mom did not attend an accredited school, then you sound like a first gen to me. 🙂

      Yay, college!
      Susanna

  43. Hello! My mom and dad both immigrated to the US with only their high school diplomas. My mom recently went back to school for her bachelors and will be receiving it this year from an online university, my sophomore year of high school. I have two older sisters, both of which started college before she obtained her degree. My father only has his high school diploma. Do I count as first-gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Stephen! I think you are a first gen because your parents did not go to a 4 year college in the US. Keep pursuing your education! It is the best decision possible Cheers, Susanna

  44. my step-sister is currently at UT in her 3rd year for engineering. My dad did online college. my stepmom went to a university and dropped out. my birth mother has a high school diploma. My grandparents both graduated a 4 year university. Am i a first-gen, despite my step-sister and grandparents?

    1. Author

      Hi Peyton! I think this would depend upon when your dad did online college and if he finished his BA. If you were young and grew up with a college educated dad, then no you wouldn’t be a first gen. If you grew up with both parents who did not have college degrees, then yes, you would be a first gen. Hope this helps! Susanna

  45. Neither of my parents went to college, only high school diplomas. The same goes for both sets of grandparents. However a few of my dad’s siblings received a bachelors degree, and I am the youngest of four with my oldest sibling having a bachelors degree. Am I a first generation college student?

    1. Author

      Hi Shelby! Yes, you are a first gen because you were raised by parents who do not have a 4 year US degree. Cheers, Susanna

  46. Hi,
    I apologize if my question has béen,asked and answered. After reading some of the questions and responses, I confused myself. My husband attended a 4 yr college for one semester, and did not return therefore he did not obtain a degree. I attended a technical college (no degree or certificate obtained) and then, transferred my credits to, Strayer University, however I did not graduate and do not have a degree. Would my daughter who is graduating in May 2019 be considered a first gen student, even though both her parents attended college but did not graduate or obtain a degree? She has been accepted to a 4 yr college that she will be attending this fall of 2019. Thanks.

    1. Author

      Hello! Yes, your daughter is a first gen. Cheers! Susanna

  47. I’m sorry if I am asking a question you have answered but could not find it anywhere, and I was having a hard time deciphering for myself. I am an adult with an adult child who has went to college and earned her Bachelors degree. She was a first gen, but now that I am in school, would I no longer be a first gen because of her? (neither of my parents attended any college) I am filling out an application for a scholarship that asks.

    1. Author

      Hello! I think you are definitely a first gen yourself because you were not raised by parents who went to a 4 year college in the US. Keep going on your education! It is the best decision ever. Cheers, Susanna

  48. If both of my parents obtained their degrees in a different country than the United States, meaning they never went to school in the US ever, am I considered a first generation student in America?

    1. Author

      Hi Austin!

      I think you are not technically a first gen yourself because you were raised by parents who went to a 4 year college. Keep going on your education! It is the best decision ever. Cheers, Susanna

  49. Hello, i would like to ask if my dad was in technical college for 2 and a half years and then went to university for 2 years but only was able to finish 1 year and my mom did 2 years of technical college would i still be able to be a first generation if my parents only got their associates degree.

    1. Author

      HiGiovanna, Yes, you are a first gen because your parents did not earn four year degrees. Best, Susanna

  50. Hi! My situation is a bit unique and I did not see anyone else ask it. Growing up neither of my parents attended college but after I was already an adult and living on my own, my mom went back to school and got a bachelors degree. I am now about to start at UCLA as a non traditional transfer student (and in my mid 30s) but would I still qualify as first generation?

    1. Author

      Hi Lindsay,

      I think that yes, you would still be a first gen because you did not grow up in a house where a four year degree was the norm and standard, and your parents did not have one at that time.

      All the very best to you as you start at UCLA! That is wonderful. They have *many* support services on campus for free tutoring and academic help, so always reach out to your academic advisor to get connected because there is never a reason to feel alone. Smart students do not know everything–they figure out where to FIND everything. 🙂

      Congratulations on this exciting new chapter! May it be blessed.
      Susanna

  51. my students’ parents went to college in another country and immigrated here to the united states, but their degrees were not evaluated and was considered either an associates equivalent or even high school degree equivalent. are they considered first generation since they are the first in their family to attend college in the united states ?

    1. Author

      Hi Jospeh,

      Thanks for writing in. This is a complex one, because the student grew up in a home where college was the standard. However, as the parents’ degrees are not recognized in the US we cannot know the rigor or quality or length of those college programs, so now, for all intents and purposes, since the parents’ degrees are not being recognized in the US, it would seem to me that this student is starting all over to break the poverty cycle in their family by pursuing college. Thus, yes, your student is now technically a first gen. I hope this helps.

      All the best,
      Susanna

  52. Hello Susanna,

    I read your previous comment about a “non-traditional” route. So what would count as a non-traditional route if I may ask? I’m curious to learn about this as this has been something that has left me wondering for a while.

    1. Author

      Hi Christopher, Thanks for your question. Can you clarify what you mean? Best, Susanna

  53. my mom has some trade school but my dad has a bachelor’s but he left me when I was younger. He has recently come back into my life but didnt raise me. Am I a first gen?

    1. Author

      Hi Samara! Yes, based upon these factors I would say that you are a first gen. 🙂
      Keep going because college is SO worth it!! Best, Susanna

  54. Hello Susanna,

    Well you mentioned a non-traditional route. Basically I want to know what do you exactly mean by a non-traditional route? Because the truth is I’m kind of in a similar situation as the previous user was. Sorry if this is complicated to understand.

    1. Author

      Hi Christopher, I’m happy to help if you explain your situation. I get hundreds of posts and am sorry but there would be no way for me to know who any previous user/poster was. Best, Susanna

      1. Hello Susanna.

        Thank you for your time. To be honest, mine is kind of a special case. This has led to feeling like I was having somewhat of an imposter syndrome from time to time. It is similar to the University of Phoenix (from Michelle’s post), but it’s a school called DeVry University. From my understanding, neither of my parents finished college. My mother decided to go back to school by attending DeVry (also primarily online-there is a sad reason of why she didn’t finish in the first place, which I don’t feel comfortable sharing online. The reason behind is what motivates me to finish college so I can give back to my family one day.) She’ll be done this August 2019. I was wondering if schools like UoP or DeVry were considered non-traditional schools. From my understanding, there sometimes seems to be negative stigma towards for-profit schools, despite the accreditation, and how it ruins students’ futures. Also despite the higher education, I was technically never given college advice since I’m the first person in my immediate family to not only attend and finish soon at a non-profit university (it’s a UC), but also to study a STEM-related major, something which there really wasn’t a lot of awareness in my family. I self-identify as a first generation because of not always being given advice on what classes to take, how living on-campus is like, coming from a divorced family with a history of low-income or even a career path. Another note to add why I still self-identify as a first-gen is because technically, I was supposed to finish in Spring of May 2019 but due to depression, lack of financial support, and other obstacles, I took a semester off for spring 2018. I’ll be finishing in Spring 2020.

        Best,
        Christopher Guzman

        1. Author

          Dear Christopher, Thank you for this clarification. Since you were raised by parents who, at the time, had not attended any university, then yes, you are a first gen. For Profit schools can be dangerous for many reasons, so I am very glad that your mother is finishing her degree and I hope she finds a job speedily. One of my friends went to DeVry and did find a good job, so it is totally possible. Hats off to you, also, for not giving up on your education no matter how tough things may ever get. I firmly believe it is the best decision I ever made, and I am sure it will be for you as well. All the best, Susanna

  55. Hello!

    If my parents have been divorced since I was 3, and one of them got a 4 year degree and the other didn’t, but i split my time equally between the two households, do I qualify as a first gen? Nobody on my dad’s side has degrees, but my mom does.

    1. Author

      Dear Sarah,

      Hello! Technically you are not a first gen because you grew up in a home (even part time) where a parent had a 4 year degree. You are really lucky to have your mom as an educational role model, so now you can go to college and chase your dreams and carry your family’s dreams even farther. One day your kids will go farther still. Education is always rewarding! Yay, college! Susanna

  56. Hello Christopher,

    I am an adoptee, which was orphaned at an early age in another country. My parents (adopted parents) brought me to this country and later became a citizen after my 18th birthday. My adopted mother has a college degree, but due to reasons unknown to me, she was not allowed(or not needed) to be a sponsor for citizenship. So in short, my adoption was not finalized until after citizenship. Both, of my children and myself wonder how to address the question, when it comes up on academic applications. Would I qualify or my children qualify as a first- gen attendee. Thank you for any insight that you may have.

    1. Author

      Hello, A person is a first-gen when they were raised in a house where no parent had a four year college degree. Hope this helps, Best, Susanna

  57. Questioning for my daughter. Her father died when she was age four. Did not go to college. I have three years at college but haven’t graduated. Recently, I got married to a man who recently graduated with his BS. My daughter is a rising junior. Both birth parents did not graduated but her stepfather graduated.

    1. Author

      Hello, A person is a first-gen when they were raised in a house where no parent had a four year college degree. Hope this helps, Best, Susanna

  58. Hi! I have been unable to find the answer to my question and I am hoping you can help. My daughter was adopted at age 4 from an orphanage in rural China. Information on her birth parents is unknown, however, it is extremely unlikely that they were college educated. My husband and I are college graduates. How does my daughter answer the first generation question? Does she base it on birth parents or adoptive parents? All the answers I have found through research are relevant only to children that were in foster care.

    1. Author

      Hello, A person is a first-gen when they were raised in a house where no parent had a four year college degree. Your daughter is definitely not a first-gen. 🙂

      Hope this helps.
      Best, Susanna

  59. Hi!
    My stepmom, who I live with, just got her BA two years ago, but no other parent I have has had a degree form a four year college. Would this mean I am not a first gen student even though I only started living with her this year and she only got her degree two years ago?
    Sorry if you answered this in a previous comment but I couldn’t seem to find one like mine.

    1. Author

      Hello, A person is a first-gen when they were raised in a house where no parent had a four year college degree. Since you haven’t lived with her for long, you may be a first-gen.

      Hope this helps.
      Best, Susanna

  60. My mother went to college but did not finish. My father went to college, and he did finish, but he did not raise me. He also passed away when I was 16. Do I count as a first gen college student?

    1. Author

      Hi Rachel, First gen students were not raised by a person who graduated from a four year college, so yes, as this article states, you are one. Best, Susanna

  61. Neither of our 18-year old adopted daughter’s biological parents went to college. Her biological father left right after she was born never to be heard from again. She lived with her biological mother until she was 11. A man lived with her mother and her from about age 6 until he died when she was 11. She was voluntarily placed in foster care at that time. She call this man her step-father even though he never married her mother. He did not graduate from college. She came to live with us as a foster child at age 14. We adopted her at age 16. I graduated from a 4-year university. My wife graduated from a diploma nursing school and has been a registered nurse for many years. She did not graduate from a 4-year college. She does not have a B.S. Does our daughter qualify as a first generation college student? If yes, biological parents/stepfather, my wife, or all?

    Thank you

    1. Author

      Hello, Since you adopted your foster daughter at age 16, then I feel that she is a first gen because most of her life was spent with parental figures who did not have a 4 year degree. Best, Susanna

Leave a Comment