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Network First-Gen

What is a First-Generation Student?

While the term “first-generation” may seem self-explanatory, its nuance means defining it can be difficult. As an institution, Vanderbilt adheres to the definition of first-generation students set by Federal guidelines, defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965. That definition is as follows:

  • a. An individual both of whose parents did not complete a baccalaureate degree; or
  • b. In the case of any individual who regularly resided with and received support from only one parent, an individual whose only such parent did not complete a baccalaureate degree.

FirstVU and Network First-Gen realize that holding the identity of a first-generation student is complex. First-generation students are academically skilled and contribute greatly to the campus community; it is the lack of critical cultural capital necessary to navigate the “hidden curriculum” of universities and colleges successfully that impact first-generation students adversely. Students with one (or more) parent(s) or guardian(s) that have completed a 4-year institution often have greater sources of support in understanding how to traverse the policies, procedures, jargon, and expectations of collegiate life. In order to open up opportunities for additional support for students that are first-generation but do not fully meet the federal guidelines to qualify as a first-generation student, FirstVU and Network First-Gen have compiled a list of resources to aid in the success of first-generation students. Moreover, we provide our own definition of first-generation Students below, one that hopefully encompasses the entire campus community.

First-Generation students are students whose in-home parent(s) or guardian(s) did not graduate from a 4-year U.S. university; this can manifest as:

  • i.Students whose in-home parent(s) or guardian(s) have a high school education or less.
  • ii. Students whose in-home parent(s) or guardian(s) only attended a 2-year higher education institution whether in the US or abroad.
First-Generation Student Attributes

First-Generation students are more likely to exhibit the following traits:

  • Resilience
  • Ingenuity
  • Drive
  • Dedication
  • Passion
  • Strong Work Ethics
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Independence
  • Present-oriented instead of future-oriented

Read more:


Upcoming Events
Flyer promoting event called "Bridging the Gap: a first-gen undergrad and grad student meet-up" held on February 26th from 11am-1pm in the Main Library room 418A
Sponsored by the University Libraries, Open Book Collective, and the Curb Center.

2023 EDI Graduate Recognition Celebration – registration information

previous event highlights

National First Gen Day


You may encounter some experiences that are common to First-Generation Students. We have prepared a list of resources to guide you through these potential challenges.

Choosing a Major

You may need to click through departments in some links to find the Department Chair.

Financial Confidence
  • Dore Money $marts offers a free online tool called GradReady with short lessons on budgeting, debt management, banking, and other topics.
  • HireADore helps locate open work-study and/or regular job positions on or near campus.
  • Experience Vanderbilt provides up to $500 for student activities.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of getting to know your financial advisor. The Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarship offers individual appointments and workshops on budgeting, preparing financial aid applications, and loan repayment.
  • More money for books or other expenses if they exceed expected costs.
  • Ask for a health insurance waiver if the cost would be financially straining.
Academic Readiness
Getting Involved in Student Organizations




Finding Work

Work-Life School Resources

Remote work opportunities:

Learning Campus Culture
Additional Resources: