Quiz: Am I a First Gen College Student?

By Susanna de Chenonceau, M.Ed.

Answer these simple questions to know if you are a first generation college student or not.

I receive many requests on my blog post about this topic, so I decided to create a short quiz to help all of you figure out if you are a first gen.

  1. Did you grow up in a home for more than 50% of your pre-adult life (age 18) where AT LEAST ONE parent or guardian figure (including step, adoptive, or grandparents) who RAISED you and influenced you HAD GRADUATED from an accredited, residential four year university anywhere in the world, and received a Bachelor’s degree BEFORE you left that home? (ie–were you directly raised by anybody who HAD graduated from a four year college?)

If you answered YES to this question, you are NOT a first gen.

If you answered NO, you ARE a first gen.

If it’s still not clear, take this quiz:

Please answer these questions about the parental figures who raised and influenced you for more than 50% of your life before you turned 18. These people could be parents, step-parents, grandparents, relatives, guardians, or adoptive parents. Now, thinking about these people, did these parental figures:

  • Graduate from a FOUR YEAR college?
  • Graduate from a four year college BEFORE you turned 18?
  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?
  • Earn a Bachelors Degree BEFORE you turned 18?
  • Earn that BA degree in person, NOT online?
  • Earn that degree from an accredited institution?
  • Live at the college they graduated from, or very near to it?
  • Attend four years of college and then graduate in the US?
  • Attend four years of college and then graduate in any country?
  • Have a diploma from an accredited college or university?
  • Share with you any guidance about what it was like to attend four year college?

If you answered YES to ANY of these questions, you are NOT a first gen.

If you answered NO to ALL of these questions, you ARE a first gen.

Being a first gen means that your “parental figures” had NOT graduated from a college that was:

  • A FOUR YEAR college
  • Residential (they lived there, or near it)
  • Not an online program
  • Anywhere in the world
  • Accredited
  • Degree/diploma granting

Being a first gen means your “parental figures”:

  • Raised you more than 50% of the time before you turned 18
  • Lived in your house and influenced you
  • Could be guardians, step-parents, grandparents, relatives, or adoptive parents or ANYONE who raised you
  • Did NOT graduate college before you turned 18
  • May have started college or attended some college, but they did NOT graduate

That makes you a first gen.

If you are a first gen, you and your siblings will be pioneers, the first ones to navigate and understand university. You will be first gens together.

Being a first gen is based on who raised you, not on who your biological parents are or what your biological parents ever did or did not do in their lives.

A first gen is someone who DID NOT have parental or guardian figures ABLE to advise them about how to attend and navigate college because those parental or guardian figures had never done it.


Being a first gen means you had no guidance to help YOU navigate college. If your parental figures went to college when you did or after you did, you are STILL a first gen.

I hope this helps to make this clear. There seems to be a lot of confusion about this topic.

Please do not post a comment here if you just want someone to tell you whether you are a first gen or not.

Take the little quiz at the top and THEN if there is still confusion, please let me know and I will try to edit it to make it even more clear. Thank you! 🙂



31 Responses

  1. What if your step parent recieved an associate’s degree?
    Would you still be considered first gen?

    1. Hello, I believe the quiz states that a four year degree is the defining characteristic. Can you let me know where this is unclear. Thanks so much! Susanna

  2. Hi. I’m curious why you exclude online degree programs? If someone earns their bachelors degree from an accredited university’s online program, why would their children be first-gen? Many students now are non-traditional, still they meet all qualifications to earn their degree even if it is not on-campus.

    1. Hi Felicia! First gens do not have parents who can help them navigate university life, and typically we define that as “residential”–living in the dorms, etc. However, as more programs move online these days, I expect this definition will change, even if only to broaden. Hope this helps, Susanna

  3. What if they did four year non-residential course, outside of US where college application is not required? International student

  4. Hi Is this a official benchmark known by colleges? The 50+% rule? If this is true I’m considered first gen…

    However, most websites say your adoptive parent’s education rules out your biological parents regardless of anything. But I lived with my Biological parents longer who do not have college degrees, The only person who has a degree connected to me is my adoptive father.

  5. I had a question. I have full custody and raise my 17 year old son and I did not graduate from college. He visits his mom in the summers but does not live with her. I have remarried and have been for 7 years and his stepmother did graduate from a 4 year college. Is he still a 1st Gen, as he lives with me and his step-mom ha only been around for 7 of his 17 years?

  6. My mom got a bachelor’s degree in Jordan, and my dad got an Associated degree in Jordan. Neither of these degrees can be used in the U.S., where I have lived all my life. Do I count as a first gen?

    1. Hello! You can apply for first gen programs at colleges and look for first gen scholarships. DEFINITELY join the first gen group at your school, and be sure to list first gen on every college application, because it helps them to help you. 🙂
      We are here for you, kiddo!

  7. Hello, both my parents got a 4 year degree at an unaccredited university. Would this still mean I’m a second generation student?

        1. Yes, it would seem likely you are first gen, as you will be attending a college or university offering many majors across sciences, arts, and humanities.

  8. Hi! Some background, my mom was a pediatrician in Cuba and when we came here (I was under 18), she did a 6-month master’s program in PR when she finished the required courses as a non-degree. She also took English classes for the TOEFL exam. When I started at Uni, I had done everything myself as my parents didn’t know the process. Even for classes, it’s different than what my mom experienced as she never did my undergrad experience. So while she has certifications, does that mean I am not a 1st gen? I am struggling with this as I thought a first-gen doesn’t receive help with the applications or receive any college tips.

    1. Hello Roxy!
      This is a tough one because your mom is a doctor so you grew up in an educated household with the expectations that you would go to college probably.

      Just ask the school you are applying to if they consider you first gen.


  9. hi, i’m an intl student applying to the US. my mom did a two year associate degree from a public university 25 years ago and then after a 5-6 year break to take care of kids, did her masters which was either for a year or two, also from a public university. my father on the other hand, went into military training after high school. became a military officer and then on the side, while working, the military taught him to be an engineer for the military. this learning again, wasn’t for four years. but he is a civil engineer and worked as an engineer for the military. what does this make me and my siblings?

      1. heyy, yes i did! but the only reason i’m confused is because my mom holds a masters degree on top of her associate degree.

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