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:
- Strong Work Ethics
- Critical Thinking
- Problem Solving
- Present-oriented instead of future-oriented
- Redford, J., & Hoyer, K. M. (2017). First-generation and continuing-generation college students: A comparison of high school and post-secondary experiences. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018009.pdf
- Center for First-Generation Student Success Research & Policy
2023 EDI Graduate Recognition Celebration – registration information
previous event highlights
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
- Career Center
- Other FGLI students
- Campus Connection
- Your Department Chair
- Arts & Sciences
- School of Engineering
- Peabody College
- Blair School of Music
You may need to click through departments in some links to find the Department Chair.
- 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.
- The Writing Studio If you can’t get an appointment, sign yourself up for the waitlist. You will likely be contacted to fill in a spot!
- Drop-in STEM tutoring at Featheringill Hall 132
- Penji App
- The Career Center has recruiters from different fields who regularly visit campus. They likely have something to offer. You have nothing to lose – and everything to gain – by attending these events! Also, make an appointment early. They want to help, and often can.
- Graduate School Preparation
- Pre-law: email@example.com
- Pre-Law Brightspace Page, email to get added here: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Pre-med : firstname.lastname@example.org or set up an appointment online! You can also directly contact Christopher King at email@example.com
- Shadowing opportunities: Alpha Epsilon Delta
- First-Generation specific tutoring groups that meet weekly for CHEM1601 and BXCI1510 Contact Miriam Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org Others may be created based on interest, so please check each semester
- Time Management and Preparation Peer Guides
- Center for Student Wellbeing (CSW) If you are new to the CSW and seeking academic, wellbeing, or Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) coaching, please email email@example.com.
Getting Involved in Student Organizations
- AnchorLink Organizations
- Experience Vanderbilt provides up to $500 for student activities
- FirstVU is Vanderbilt’s premier student-run organization that supports, celebrates, and empowers first-generation students.
Work-Life School Resources
- Wellbeing Workshops
- First-Gen Fellowships
- Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) Fellows
Remote work opportunities:
- Varsity Tutors
- Vanderbilt Career Center
- Immersion Vanderbilt
- Vanderbilt Undergrad Student Research Program (VUSRP)
- Career Center Resources
Learning Campus Culture
- FirstVU – Check here for events: FirstVu Anchor Link
- Center for Student Wellbeing
- Identity Centers
- First-Gen Faculty Database
- Faces of FGLI
- Cultural & Identity-Based Resources
- Commodore Closet: Apply for money to buy new clothes for interviews or jobs
- Commodore Cruise: Enter raffles for free tickets to events around Nashville
- Student Care Network: Get support, and a listening ear, from professionals who can help
- UCC Drop-In Consultation Hours
- BetterHelp Telemedicine Counseling Service
- GriefNet: If struggling with the loss of a loved one
- KC Potter: LGBTQIA+ center
- Sarratt sells $8 movie tickets
- The Rec has free meditation classes & healthy cooking demonstrations (Vandy Cooks)
- The Black Cultural Center offers social programming, a library, great food, and consistent sessions with allies who work at various offices across campus
- The Women’s Center provides free condom, tampons, pads, and body acceptance sessions
- Idealist – an interest-driven non-profit organization that houses job board