As reported by UMass University Analytics and Institutional Research:  

  • 47% of first-generation students at UMass Amherst are BIPOC 

  • 51% of first-generation students at UMass Amherst are Pell Grant-eligible 

  • 28% of first-generation students at UMass Amherst are transfer students 

We share this as a reminder that first-generation is not a monolithic identity and that the experiences of first-generation students are complex and often determined by intersecting identities. At the same time, many first-generation students share similar experiences. Knowing first-gen students on campus as individuals and being aware of best practices for first-gen support can increase their academic success.  

Five Suggestions for Supporting First-Generation Students   

  1. Be Intentional About Relationship-Building: Building thoughtful and intentional personal relationships with first-generation students helps cultivate a support network. If possible, offer guidance on the importance of mentorship – or show yourself as a mentor.  

  1. Facilitate Community Connections: In an environment as large as UMass Amherst, connection is essential. When possible, offer students direct connections to other people, resources, and groups to help make navigating our community feel less daunting.  

  1. Make First-Generation Identity Visible: Knowing we are not alone can make a challenging experience feel easier. If you identify as first-generation, consider sharing that identity with students and openly discussing first-generation experiences and resources on campus. Acknowledge this population in spaces when you can. 

  1. Share Financial Support Resources: For many first-generation students, college is the first time they navigate finances independently. Connect them to resources to help them better understand their immediate financial context and build financial literacy to meet long-term goals. An excellent resource to show them is Smart About Money. 

  1. Keep Information Clear: When speaking to, interacting with, and providing direction to first-generation students, keep your information clear. Avoid assumptions about a student’s familiarity with higher education or the processes within. Avoid acronyms, offer to explain terminology, and create room for questions.  


Here are some resources that may help with navigating relationships with our first-generation student population here at UMass: 

First-Generation Students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst 
The Center for Student Success Research led a mixed methods study of first-gen students on campus during the 2018-2019 academic year to understand students' experiences on campus better. The results of that research can be found in the linked report. 

First-Generation @ UMass Amherst 
This website is a resource for all first-gen students on campus and can serve as a starting point for students looking for information about first-gen identity and ways to connect to the campus community  

Name Pronunciation Guide 
People’s names are an essential part of their identity, and to foster and build community, we can honor and respect that by trying our best to pronounce names correctly. This guide serves as a tool to help us pronounce the names of our diverse student population.  

Connect UMass First-Gen Students and Alumni Group 
This group is a space for networking – a fun, safe, supportive, and resource-rich community where students can connect with UMass alums who also identify as first-gen. Each alum in the group is committed to providing mentorship and support for the first-gen students who reach out to them. Not only is this a fantastic opportunity to build networking skills – it’s also a networking platform that can yield real-world results for future first-gen graduates.  

Glossary of Terms 
Many terms and acronyms are used in the college setting, and here at UMass, that may be new to those who have never had someone who attended college or are familiar with the campus. This glossary helps students understand and learn those terms. 

Trajectory: A Student Success Podcast 
Do you know a first-gen student who would be interested in telling their story? Trajectory is a podcast focused on centering student narratives as they share their journeys of defining and achieving success.  

Center for First-Generation Student Success 
The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) has created the Center for First-Generation Student Success. This center was created in a partnership between NASPA and The Suder Foundation and exists to transform higher education to drive first-generation student success effectively and equitably across education. Check out their page for more information and resources available to you! 

Class Action's First-Generation Summit
Class Action is an organization that provides a dynamic framework and analysis for people of all backgrounds to identify and address issues of class and classism and its intersection with race and racism.  

If you have or know of any resources that you believe would be helpful as faculty and staff serve our first-generation population, please share them by emailing @email

First-Gen Forward

Undergraduate Student Success and the First-Generation Experience at UMass

Undergraduate Student Success is committed to supporting and celebrating the first-generation student population at UMass Amherst. An essential part of our community’s history, first-generation students are defined here as those who do not have a parent or guardian who attained a four-year degree. First-gen students come to our campus with many essential perspectives, life experiences, and skills. We encourage students to embrace their ability to achieve their goals as they connect and develop a sense of belonging on campus. 

Our unit offers programming, services, and resources to cultivate academic and co-curricular success. Support for first-generation students is a shared mission across our campus, and we collaborate extensively with the academic colleges and departments and Student Affairs & Campus Life. We continue to grow and improve our initiatives, collaborating with students on campus and utilizing success data to drive meaningful, planful action. 

Additionally, we are glad to share that UMass Amherst is designated a First-Gen Forward institution by NASPA's Center for First-Generation Student Success. We are grateful for the many students, staff, and faculty who have led, coordinated, and facilitated the initiatives that have earned us this recognition.

Want to learn more about the nationwide movement to support first-generation college student success? Here are some helpful resources: