How First-Generation Students Can Pay for College

Many first-generation college students have already overcome several obstacles to get where they are. What scholarships are available to them?

Robin Hill-Gray - Author

Apr. 21 2022, Published 7:44 a.m. ET

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Going to college is a big deal, and it's an even bigger deal when the student is the first in their immediate family to attend. Given that many first-generation students have already struggled to get where they are, they shouldn't have to abandon their dreams because they can't pay for college. Therefore, some scholarships cater to first-generation college students.

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Applying for scholarships may seem daunting, with thousands of students applying for one award. However, there are more first-generation scholarships available than people think.

First-generation students have a harder time completing college

According to What To Become, one-third of students on college campuses are first generation. In 2021, first-gen students comprised 22.8 percent of Harvard's freshmen and 13 percent of Brown University's.

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And according to the Pew Research Center, among adults between the ages of 22 of 59 with parents who don't have an education past high school, 20 percent have completed a bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, of adults with one parent who has completed some form of college, 34 percent hold a bachelor's degree, and of adults with two parents who finished college, 82 percent have a bachelor's.

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Scholarships available to first-generation college students

First-generation student scholarships vary in their amounts and eligibility criteria. Some scholarships through certain universities are limited to students who have already been accepted, and some scholarships may be major-specific. Schools that offer first-generation scholarships include Saint Mary's University, University of Iowa, University of Colorado, Texas A&M University, and Colorado Mesa University. Other first-gen scholarships you may want to look at are the following:

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  • The Arnold H. White Memorial Scholarship, which offers $6,000 to first-generation students who graduate from high school in the Nebraska communities of Lincoln, Fairbury, or Lyons. The deadline is March 15, 2023.
  • The Colgate-Palmolive "Make the U" Educational Grant Program, which, in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, offers an unspecified amount to first-generation students who display academic excellence. The deadline is Dec. 6, 2022.
  • The Dorrance scholarship, which offers a whopping $12,000 to first-generation students who need financial support. This scholarship is aimed at Arizona residents who plan to pursue an undergraduate degree at a public university in Arizona. The deadline is Feb. 9, 2023.
  • The Florida First-Gen Grant, which targets Florida residents who plan to attend a state university there. The amount and deadline both vary.

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