First in Family Scholarships
Being the first person in your family to go to college is a true accomplishment - especially since it can be much harder to navigate the college application process without someone who has been through the experience to show you the way. Fortunately, these students are eligible for first-generation scholarships to reward them for their persistence. Read below to learn how first-generation scholarships work, where to find them and how to apply for them.
What is a first in family scholarship?
First in family scholarships or “first-generation” scholarships prioritize students whose parents did not attend or graduate from college. Organizations that distribute these awards realize that these students are at a disadvantage compared to students who come from a long line of college graduates and attendees.
These families may not have the resources to help their child succeed. They also may be less familiar with the college application and financial aid process. These scholarship providers want to give first-generation students a leg up so they’re on an even playing field. And because first-generation students are more likely to drop out than those who's parents have been to college, these scholarships may be more likely to encourage them to keep going.
How to apply for a first in family scholarship
There are a significant number of first in family scholarships in our scholarship database. When you create a profile and conduct a free scholarship search at Scholarships.com you will be automatically matched to any for which you qualify. Be sure to keep track of those you like the best, have applied for or won.
If you prefer to use our directory, you can specifically search for awards designed for first in family college students. There are dozens of scholarships that fit this demographic. As you do your research, create a spreadsheet listing each award, the due date, the amount, essay requirements and if you need a recommendation letter. Prioritize the awards that you feel confident are the most suited to you.
Start asking for recommendation letters a few weeks before you need them. Bear in mind that the person you are asking may be busy, so try to give whomever you ask a few weeks’ notice to allow them sufficient time to write you a letter of recommendation that will really help your cause.
If you have to write an essay, remember that you are also busy and give yourself enough time to write a rough draft and have it proofread by someone who you consider to be an excellent reader and eloquent speaker. This could be anyone from a parent or other relative to an English teacher at your school.
Frequently Asked Questions about First-Generation Students
What are the best scholarships for first-generation students?
The Kim and Harold Louie Family Foundation Scholarship Program is not just for first-generation students, but does prioritize them in their application pool. Applicants must be enrolling in their first year of college, but do not have to currently be high school seniors.
The Dr. Jason and Nicole Green African American First-Generation College Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship given to an African-American student who is the first in their family to attend college. Many colleges have their own first-generation scholarships. Ask the financial aid department if there are any such opportunities available.
Am I a first-generation student if my parents went to college abroad?
If you are the child of an immigrant who attended college in their home country, you may still be considered a first-generation student in the US. However, if your parents went back to school in the States, then you may no longer be a first-generation student.
What other types of financial aid are first-generation students eligible for?
First-generation students may be eligible for federal and state grants, but they will have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered. They may also qualify for subsidized federal loans, which do not accrue interest while in school and during any deferment periods. Completing the FAFSA can also help you be eligible for more awards through your school. Contact the financial aid department if you’re having trouble completing the FAFSA.
What other kinds of scholarships are first-generation students eligible for?
First-generation students who are part of a minority group should also apply for scholarships related to their race, ethnicity or other distinguishing factor. For example, there are many Hispanic scholarships, African-American scholarships or LGBTQ scholarships.
Also, if you're a single parent going to school, you can look for awards available for those households. Brainstorm every unique quality you have and try to find awards that fit those characteristics. Even if a scholarship is not explicitly for first-generation students, you should still mention it in the essay portion. This may help you stand out among other applicants.
Am I still first-generation if my parents attended vocational or trade school?
In general, having a parent who attended or graduated from vocational or trade school does not disqualify you from being a first-generation student. If you are not certain, it is a good idea to ask the scholarship provider if you meet the eligibility requirements. In some cases, having a sibling who has already attended or graduated college may disqualify you. This depends on the specific scholarship provider and their definition of a first-generation student.