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First-Generation @ Penn State

Thousands of Penn Staters will be the first in their families to complete a baccalaureate degree!

There are nearly 16,000 first-generation undergraduate students enrolled in a residential academic program through Penn State. This makes up roughly 25% of Penn State's undergraduate student population at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses combined! There are several ways to define first-generation when used in a college or university setting. Penn State recognizes first-generation students as any student whose immediate parents or legal guardians have not completed a baccalaureate degree.

Many first-generation students do not realize that they're first-generation until they arrive at college, but often feel as though they are experiencing college differently than their peers who are not first-gen. Most first-generation students are pioneering a new path for themselves/their families and may face unique challenges as they work toward completing their degrees. Penn State welcomes all first-generation students and values the contributions that first-gen students bring to each and every one of our campuses. The Student Success Center is here to help first-generation students navigate the collegiate experience, coach them through challenges, and celebrate their successes and many contributions.

The Student Success Center in partnership with our colleagues in student affairs, academic affairs, and educational equity work to provide resources and support that is specifically tailored to meet the needs of Penn State's first-generation student population. We invite you to read below to learn more about our events and initiatives and connect with us to share your story or join our community!

First-Gen Student Support Summit

On Wednesday, May 4, the Student Success Center will convene the first annual First-gen Student Support Summit. This virtual, one-day conference will be an opportunity to recognize and strengthen Penn State’s first-generation community. The summit will invite allies of first-gen students to share best practices, network with one another, and cultivate a community of practice across Penn State. The event will prominently feature the voices of first-generation students themselves, whose firsthand perspectives can inform our efforts to support and advocate for this important population.

2022 News Story

2022 Event Details

National First-Generation College Celebration

Each November, Penn State joins colleges and universities across the nation in recognizing National First-Generation College Celebration on Nov. 8. Established by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-generation Student Success, the holiday marks the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which created a range of initiatives to expand access to higher education for low-income and first-generation students. Penn State’s 2021 celebration will include several events and festivities.

2021 News Story

2021 Event Details & Recordings

  • First Gen Advocates (FGA) is a Penn State graduate student organization that promotes advocacy, awareness, and mentorship to support first-generation undergraduate students at Penn State. Explore the organization’s programming at FGA’s website.
  • Additional opportunities to be added soon.

  • Achieve Penn State is a University-wide initiative designed to help undergraduate students—particularly those with financial need—to graduate on time and with less debt. Learn more about the initiative’s signature programs and resources at achieve.psu.edu.
  • The Student Success Center provides a wealth of additional resources to help students achieve their academic goals.