Don’t let being the first in your family to attend college stop you from seeking financial help.
If you’re the first in your family to attend college, you might be looking for so-called first-generation scholarships.
There are plenty of first-in-family scholarship opportunities, such as the TMCF/Walmart First-Generation Scholarship Program. Aside from $6,200 in aid, the program offers incoming freshman students an on-campus mentor at a historically black college or university within the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s network.
Your school’s financial aid office can also fill you in on its own opportunities. The University of Colorado—Boulder, for example, offers the First Generation Grant to Colorado residents. It pays out up to $1,000 per semester while offering advising and academic support through the school’s First Generation Scholars Program.
If learning how to pay for college as a first-gen student is difficult, consider reaching out to these four organizations.
1. College Greenlight: Creating a free profile on College Greenlight, which was built for both first-generation and low-income students, gives you access to a searchable database of more than $11 billion worth of scholarships.
College Greenlight will do the research for you, presenting a list of opportunities based on your academic, social and community accomplishments. Before you receive the results, you will be asked to provide your academic background and college preferences.
2. Strive for College: If you’re struggling to get started with a scholarship search, Strive for College can be a good resource. With the UStrive platform, you can meet with a mentor online who can answer questions about the college application process, including about scholarships. Although the platform doesn’t offer its own scholarships or database, your mentor can help you find the right scholarships to apply for.
The organization says that 89 percent of its users go on to attend college without taking on student loan debt. Learning how to apply for financial aid is also a big part of the nonprofit’s free online curriculum.
Strive for College also powers I’m First, an online community of first-generation students. If you need some inspiration before applying for scholarships, take a look at their video testimonials and blog posts.
3. FirstGEN Fellows: Designed for first-in-family undergraduates who want to pursue a career in social justice, FirstGEN Fellows awards a one-time stipend of $1,500 per student. Besides receiving the award, the six fellows take part in a 10-week summer program interning in or near the District of Columbia.
If you’re not interested in a career related to social justice, FirstGEN Fellows provides a list of organizations around the country that cater to low-income and first-generation students.
4. Student Success Agency: Just as professional athletes have agents to negotiate their contracts, first-time college students should have someone who helps them navigate how to pay for college. That’s the mission of Student Success Agency. It was founded by EJ Carrion, who knows firsthand how to score a full ride to college.
SSA says 90 percent of its agents received scholarships to attend college. They hail from 30-plus U.S. colleges.
In addition to finding scholarships, your agent is available to help while you apply for and attend college. The company estimates that the average agent-student pair interacts around 45 times per month.
Unlike other support-oriented organizations for first-generation students, SSA charges a fee. To be paired with an agent, you have to fork over $65 per month.
First-generation college students have a graduation rate of 34 percent, compared with 55 percent of the general student population, according to First Scholars, a program run by the private Suder Foundation. Financial aid and academic support are two ways to bridge the gap.
Think about it: The more mentorship you receive, the likelier you are to finish school on time. There are plenty of organizations offering such support, including Gateway to College, CFES Brilliant Pathways and Beyond 12.
Look for organizations that also offer scholarship help. The more tuition you can cover without resorting to debt, the more you can focus on preparing for a postgraduate career.
By Andrew Pentis, Contributor Feb. 15, 2018, at 10:00 a.m.