First-Generation Students going to University

Written by Calvin Bowers

With more and more young people choosing to go to university, the number of first-generation students is increasing. While government loans and university bursaries attempt to level the playing field, not everyone has the same opportunities and support when considering university.

What are first-generation students? 

You are a first-generation student if you are part of the first generation in your family to go to university. Most typically, this means that neither of your parents went to university. This includes any form of studying that qualifies for higher education qualifications. For example,  part-time university, remote university or attending university as a mature student.

Even if another member of your family has been to university, you may still count as a first-generation student. For example, a sibling, partner, foster parent, adopted parent, or extended family member who went to university. A parent who went to university, but you did not have contact with during school, will also not affect your status as a first-generation student.

Why is it important to recognise first-generation students? 

It can sometimes be challenging for those students whose parents did go to university to recognise its privilege. Having a parent who has been to university can change your perspective and aspirations regarding careers, education, finance and travel.

If you have a parent who went to university, they are more likely to encourage you to consider it an option for you. You are less likely to be put off by the cost and the fear of living away from home.

In short, we are all influenced by the actions of our parents and the people that raised us. So for those who don’t have a parent that has gone to university, there are even more barriers to accessing higher education.

Support and guidance 

Even when first-generation students get to university, there can still be many challenges and hurdles to overcome. A recent report from the University of Southampton found that students whose parents had not been to university were less likely to go themselves. And further, they needed extra support and encouragement when looking towards a future career.

If you are the first person in your family to go to university, it can be hard to believe in yourself and find the confidence to face new challenges. Many universities have support groups, social clubs and societies, and online resources to help first-generation students navigate this already challenging experience.

Research from UCL reported that first-generation students are more likely to drop out than those with graduated parents. Considering dropping out of university can be an overwhelming and confusing decision. Make sure you seek guidance and support from your tutors, counselling services and academic advisory teams.

For more support on attending university, visit our hub for students and graduates.


Last Updated: Friday January 15 2021
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