Resource Library

First-Generation College Students

Many people rely on family members who have graduated from college to help them get to and through school. If you don't have someone in your family to help, how do you know what to expect?

Getting Started

It might be easy to think about all the potential challenges the college application and enrollment process might pose for you, particularly without help from someone close who has been there before.

The good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone. There are both good online resources (if you prefer the self-guided route) and programs at the high school and college levels, as well as programs for veterans, that can help get you to where you want to be.

Get connected with student support services at the school you’re planning to attend. Colleges have programs for first-generation students that provide academic support and help with the transition to living away from home and becoming part of a new community. For example, TRIO offers a series of federally-funded programs that help low-income (and first-generation) Americans enter and graduate from college and there are 30 such programs throughout Idaho. Some of these are also available through high schools—talk to your college and career counselor.

While you may be tempted to keep your status as a first-generation, college-going student to yourself, declaring yourself as such can potentially help in a number of ways:

  • May help your application stand out, as many schools are looking to diversify their student populations and actively recruit first-generation students
  • Could help you qualify for scholarships
  • Will signal to a college or university that you may need a bit of assistance navigating the process, and in many cases they will reach out to extend the offer before you even have the chance to ask

Paying for College

Start the financial aid process as early as you can (which is simply good advice for any student planning for college). You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as October the fall before you plan to attend school. Doing so will give you the best chance of getting into the priority group of applicants. Reach out to the financial aid office at the school where you plan to apply for help or if you are still in high school, ask your counselor to help you gather up the information and submit your application.


Succeeding in college is a lot like succeeding in life. Do the research, make a plan, and follow the steps you’ve outlined to reach your goal. And ask for help when you need it—you’ll find that there are many people who will be vested in your success.

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