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Paving the Way: American University First-Generation Voices


What does it mean to be a first generation student?

Are You A First-Generation College Student?

Who is considered first-generation at AU? A first-generation college student is defined as a student where neither parent(s)/legal guardian(s) has attend any college. This means you are the first in your family to attend college. Being the first is a proud accomplishment! We recognize that you might have lots of questions and encourage you to ask away. No question is too little, too big, and all are relevant towards enhancing your unique experience and journey.

Get Involved and First-Generation Offerings

There are many "firsts" to be proud of, and being first in your family to attend college is no exception. Being a trend setter can often present itself with insecurities, challenges, and sometimes even feelings of doubt. Don't fret! AU has several resources and connections to help make your college transition and experience as smooth as possible. Make sure to check the listings below for ways you can get involved with supporting yourself and your fellow peers.

  • Share your story! Did you know that AU's incoming class was made up of over 10% first-generation students?! It's easy to feel like you are the only one and that no one understands what you are going through.

CDI wants you to share you story as a first-generation college student here at AU with other students, faculty, and staff as a way to inspire and offer advice to the next generation. 

Preparing for What's Next

Whether you are transitioning to AU or transitioning on from AU to the next chapter, planning your next steps are important.

How to Pay for School. Going hand in hand with academic success, college affordability is super important. No matter how little or big of an investment you are making in your college experience, financial literacy and organization will pay off. Become familiar with AU Central who will help answer questions specific questions regarding your student account. Also, remember to complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA) application each year if you are seeking financial assistance for the next academic year.

If you are preparing for life after AU, budgeting, financial literacy, and awareness are still key. Keep records of all necessary documents and read up on all the great resources that the Department of Education and Federal Student Aid offer to help minimize your student loan debt and repayment options.

Setting the Stage for Career Goals. Networking is an area where many first-generation students have minimal experience, but it all changes here at AU! By the time students walk across the stage, networking comes naturally. There are a host of campus resources that we encourage students to become familiar with throughout their time here at AU. AU's Career Center offers hands-on career advising and resume critiques that assist students with highlighting their involvement and skill sets. Opportunity exists, and their great advisors know where to find it!

Graduate School and Beyond. For the most part, identifying as a first-generation doesn't go away should you decide to pursue graduate studies after AU. Many students find themselves presented with the same emotions they experienced when they first entered their undergraduate studies. This time around, it's important to remind yourself of all the great accomplishments you've achieved thus far. This journey is just another first to add on and you'll do great!

It's important to note that not all first-generation college student experiences are the same. CDI recognizes this and wants to encourage you to share your voice! If you have ideas for future programming or want to share feedback with CDI staff, the door is open to do so in a safe and welcoming space.

NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. territories. Visit for more information.

The Center for First-generation Student Success is the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development, and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students. Through four strategic priority areas, the Center drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success.

First-Generation student holding sign that says "Being a First-Gen Student Means: Creating a legacy for my family"

Being a First-Generation student means many things, including getting to create a legacy to live on in your family.