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How to choose your school as a first-generation college student

July 24, 2018

Categories: Blog

Published: July 24, 2018

First-generation college students face unique challenges in the school selection process. Follow these four steps to ensure your college supports and respects your first-generation student needs.

Every student enters college with unique perspectives and experiences. This holds true regardless of whether your parents attended college. But for first-generation college students, certain challenges are particularly common. By selecting the right school, first-generation students can feel supported throughout their academic endeavors.

What does “first-generation college student” mean?

Before we explore the first-generation experience, we must define who first-generation college students are. While there is no universal agreement on whom the term “first-generation” applies to, the term most commonly refers to students whose parents/guardians did not attend college. First-generation students make up approximately 30 percent of all freshmen college students in the United States.

What are common first-generation student needs?

At every stage of higher education, first-generation college students may lack the familiarity and support their peers receive from home. First-generation college students often feel alone in the application, financial aid, and college selection processes.

In addition, first-generation college students may have more obligations—such as jobs and family members to take care of—than their peers. These trends combine to create a set of needs unique to first-generation college students. As such, first-generation college students should seek out a school that delivers access to the resources they will need to support them in their educational endeavors.

What to look for as a first-generation college student

Luckily, colleges are becoming more aware of these diverse student needs. At the same time, not all programs offer the support systems necessary for success. As a first-generation college student, here are four key factors to look for during your college search.

1. Student resources

First and foremost, first-generation college students can benefit from a school that provides broad resources to its students. This may include career support, learning assistance, student support, and more.

At Pacific Oaks College, we host all of these student resources under the Center for Achievement, Resources, and Enrichment (CARE). CARE and similar programs help ensure our first-generation students have a place for all kinds of support.

2. Financial aid opportunities

According to the Institute of Education Sciences, more than 25 percent of first-generation students come from households earning $20,000 or less, compared to just 6 percent of their peers’ households. Therefore, before committing to a college, first-generation students should look into the financial aid, scholarships, grants, and payment plans a college offers to see if they can benefit from these potential opportunities.

At Pacific Oaks College, we offer a scholarship specifically for first-generation college students, meaning there will be no need to sacrifice a high-quality education due to cost. With the help of financial resources, every student can unlock the degree of their dreams.

3. Inclusive core values

A college’s core values help determine classroom culture and student success. For first-generation college students, a school that emphasizes the values of inclusion, social justice, and diversity can be particularly important.

One example of this is Pacific Oaks’ Quaker-based philosophy, which values the potential found in every student. By embracing first-generation college students and respecting every individual’s unique perspective, value-based colleges can offer better support.

4. Flexible learning options

For students with busy home lives or commitments, flexible learning options can be imperative to educational success. First-generation college students who prefer—or need—to learn from home benefit from flexible programs. Before selecting a school, determine whether an online program might work best for you.

Regardless of your learning style, Pacific Oaks offers high-quality education online and in person. First-generation college students can feel confident in their education while tending to their other commitments, from home or beyond.


Being the first in your family to attend college is something to be proud of. While first-generation college students face some unique hurdles, the right college will be able to support students through all their academic pursuits.

Pacific Oaks celebrates first-generation students, providing them with unprecedented support and resources. For more information on any of our programs, visit our website or request more info today.

Categories: Blog

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