First-Generation College Students

As the first in their family to go to college, first-generation college students may face unique challenges accessing, transitioning, and completing college. First-generation college students may struggle more compared to their peers because they are unable to benefit from the knowledge and skills of their parents’ college-going experience.

The definition of first-generation college students can vary. First-generation college students can be defined as students with one or more parents without any postsecondary educational experience, students with one or more parents without any postsecondary credential, or students with one or more parents specifically without a 4-year college degree. Depending on how inclusive the definition, it is estimated that up to 50% of the college-going population are first-generation college students.

  • According to a 2018 report, first-generation college students are less likely to enroll in postsecondary education than their peers whose parents earned a bachelor’s degree (72%/84%* and 93%, respectively).
  • According to the same report, first-generation college students are more likely to leave a postsecondary education without a credential than their peers whose parents earned a bachelor’s degree (33%/26% and 14%, respectively).
  • In terms of employment outcomes, the report found no statistically significant differences in the rates of full-time employment 4 years after degree completion among first-generation college students and students whose parents earned a bachelor’s degree (between 57-59% were employed full-time).

*This data encompasses both potential first-generation definitions: those students with one or more parents without any postsecondary education experience and students with one or more parents without a 4-year degree.

 

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