The standard definition of "first-generation" is: a college student whose parents or guardians did not earn a degree at a four-year institution.
Here at UMass, however, we recognize that the definition of a first-generation student is fluid, encompassing complex family dynamics and embodying a diverse group of individuals who hold multiple identities. No matter how you define it, the faculty and staff at UMass Amherst understand that first-generation college students often face unique barriers to successfully completing their postsecondary education.
If you identify as a first-generation college student, we want you to know that we see you. College can be challenging, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is having to navigate the ins and outs of higher education on your own. Read on for an overview of first-generation and first-generation adjacent resources available across campus, and remember that you can reach out to us at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First-Gen Students in the United States
The national percentage of undergraduates who are first‑generation college students depends on the definition. According to the most recent research from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators: As of academic year 2015–16, 24% had parents with no postsecondary education and 56% had parents who did not have a BA degree. Students with parents who do not have BA degrees were more likely than continuing-generation students to attend college part time, to have dependents, and to attend community colleges and for-profit institutions. They were also slightly more likely to be veterans. The median parental income of dependent, first-generation students was about $41,000, while the median parental income for continuing-generation students was about $99,000.
For further national data, check out this fact sheet from NASPA.