Scholarships for “First Generation” Students

Question: I have heard of “First Generation” scholarships, and I am interested in one. Do you know where I could find information on those types of scholarships?

You may be thinking of the Coca-Cola Foundation First Generation Scholarships that go to students who are the first in their immediate families to attend college. About 400 colleges in 31 U.S. states participate, and here are the ground rules straight from the Web site:

Students interested in a Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship should contact the student aid office at any one of the participating schools. To be eligible, the student

(a) must be the first in his or her immediate family to go to college,
(b) must demonstrate need,
(c) be accepted into full-time enrollment at the participating school of choice,
(d) possess a record of community service, and
(e) once selected by the college or university as Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship recipient, the student is required to attain and then maintain a 3.0 academic record.

For more information about which schools take part, go to these sites:

There are some other institutions (e.g., the University of Colorado) that have their own programs for First Generation students, but various restrictions may apply. For instance, CU limits its scholarships to applicants who hail from certain minority backgrounds or from underrepresented counties in Colorado. If you are interested in a particular college, be sure to ask financial aid officials if there are any special considerations for students whose parents do not hold a bachelor’s degrees.

A couple other points to keep in mind: While much of the scholarship money for First-Generation students seems to be earmarked for those who also have financial need, being “first-gen” can be a plus in the admission process, even if your family is fairly well off. Many of the most elite institutions are eager to diversify their campus communities by adding such students to the mix. (Though typically, the most competitive schools are particularly keeping an eye out for applicants who come from true blue-collar backgrounds, rather than for those whose parents may not have college diplomas hanging on the wall but who have been successful in professional fields like real estate, insurance, computer technology, retail, etc.)

Also, a student officially qualifies as “First Generation” if neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree, even if both have earned an associate’s degree and may be only several credits shy of a bachelor’s. Usually, if a student lives with just one parent, it is that parent’s educational background that determines whether the student is considered First Generation.

Posted in Financial Aid
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