First generation college students have many questions about the college process. Questions about admissions, financial aid, how college differs from high school, and many about being the first student in the family to go to college. 

What is a first generation college student?
The National Center for Education Statistics defines first-generation students as “undergraduates whose parents never enrolled in postsecondary education.” But it’s always best to check a particular school’s understanding of what a first generation college student is.

Why focus on first generation college students?
As an admissions recruiter that served the Nashville community over five years, many first generation college students were interested in Lipscomb University. Lipscomb began attracting more and more diverse groups of students, and there were many questions these students had before entering college. These students were eager to find the answers. 

Check out the facts about first generation college students:
  • Kathleen Cushman states in an article Facing the Culture Shock of College that almost one fourth of first generation college students who enter four year colleges in the US do not return for a second year (2007, p. 44)
  • According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, first-generation students at private institutions are much more likely to succeed than those at public universities. Their six-year graduation rate at independent colleges and universities is 70 percent, versus only 57 percent at public institutions.
  • Statistics show that first-generation students often need more support. Nationally, 89% of low-income first-generation students leave college within six years without a degree. More than a quarter leave after their first year — four times the dropout rate of higher-income second-generation students.
  • The minority rate for Lipscomb University is 18% and the increase in minority enrollment since 2005 is 260%. An article from The International Journal of Education Research show that first-generation college students are characterized in the most underprivileged racial, income, and gender groups. Lipscomb is growing its diversity, and should continue exploring ways to help meet the needs of all student populations. (Retrieved from

This data reveals that the percentage of first generation college students will continue to increase and that universities should spend more time understanding the needs of first generation college students.

A report about first generation college students from the Institute for Higher Education Policy (2012) shows that these students face family and work obligations, low financial support, and little academic preparation. “Students in the first generation to attend college often face greater stress than typical middle class college students” and “they generally must deal with greater financial pressures and more family responsibilities”

Because first generation college students face challenges regarding academic preparation, financial concerns, and family/work obligations, a program that addresses these specific needs should be created.

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