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First generation scholarships are awards for students who are the first in their family to go to college. The NCES defines first generation college student as those whose parents never enrolled in post secondary education.
To qualify for a scholarship as a ‘first generation’ or ‘first scholar’, neither of your parents:
Apart from your ‘first’ status, there tend to be other rules about eligibility in place. An acceptable GPA and financial need (defined by your FAFSA application) are common. Also, volunteer work and leadership qualities are important to earn a first generation scholarship. There are scholarships for first generation minority groups too. For these, the provider may specify you must identify with a certain race or ethnicity.
There are also scholarships for low income, underserved students. So, cast a wide net while also focusing on ones with ‘first gen’ in the title. Take the American Indian College Fund for instance. They sponsor the Coca Cola First Generation Scholarship. It is a $5,000 annual, nonrenewable award for American Indian and Alaska Native college students. Some providers also offer first generation scholarships to students in local state or communities. These tend to ask for proof of residency and like others, your citizenship status.
An example of first generation scholarships is the Regent’s Scholar Program which is available at Texas A&M University. It provides up to $6,000 per academic year. To qualify, you need to be the first in your immediate family to pursue a college degree. Additionally, student’s family income must be under $40,000 according to the FAFSA. So, there is additional application form and high school transcript to submit. The scholarship is renewable up to a max of eight semesters. Recipients must be in good standing with their academics to renew this scholarship.
The First Generation Grant is available at University of Colorado, Boulder. It is a $2,000 award or $4,000 if living on campus for the first year only. To qualify, you must be either an incoming freshman or transfer student and a Colorado resident.
You must also fill out a FAFSA and be someone whose parent(s) or legal guardians do not have a bachelor’s degree. If you qualify, you can apply for the grant through the CU Boulder Scholarship Application. As the season is closing, you should check with CU Boulder prior to the fall season for the deadline date.
There are many state and federal agencies with programs in place to help first generation scholars. Some of these organizations may also offer first generation scholarships.
Beyond 12 A national nonprofit founded in 2009. Their mission is to increase the number of low income first-gen and underserved students who graduate from college. To do this, they have several programs in place including a “MyCoaching” App.
College for Every Student, Brilliant PathwaysCFES is a nonprofit that aims to help underserved youth prep for, gain access to and succeed in college. They now work with rural and urban schools in 24 states. Each school will work with low income youth, many of whom are first gen students.
First ScholarsThe Firsts scholars model blends a business mindset with college student success strategies. It intends to have a national impact and boost the graduation rate of first generation students. They also empower students to build self awareness.
QuestbridgeAn internet platform that connects bright students from low income backgrounds with colleges. As a facilitator, they hope to see an uptick in the number of low income students who attend college.
College Greenlight A website that connects first generation and underrepresented students to colleges. They allow students to connect with counselors and mentors as well. To use the tools, you need to create a College Greenlight profile.
Strive for CollegeThe UStrive platform connects you to a mentor online who can walk you through the college application process. While they do not offer first generation scholarships, your mentor can guide you to ones that may suit your goals. They also power the I’m First online network of first gen students.
A first generation scholarship or grant can take some of the stress out of paying for college. So, unlike a loan, scholarships don’t need to be repaid as long as you follow the terms. Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics show that 51% of first scholars rely on financial aid. Many first generation students work full time while enrolled in school. However, many students in a first generation situation never make it to college.
Apart from the financial help, there is another possible benefit. Once you graduate, a college degree may open up job opportunities and earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that having a college degree boosts lifetime earnings. In fact, workers with a bachelor’s degree may earn twice as much as those who finished high school.
Check out our list of first generation scholarships below. We have 696 awards worth $3M.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
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