First Generation Students

Why Are First Generation Students Different?

First generation students can't rely on their families for firsthand information about navigating college.

As a result, they usually don’t identify people who can provide guidance as they navigate unfamiliar structures and procedures, and unspoken rules and expectations. The typical first generation response is to fall back on the strategies that have worked to get them to college: grit, perseverance, and effort.

Unfortunately, without supplemental outreach from the college, these strategies are usually deployed in a vacuum so first generation students often fall short despite their best attempts to succeed.

Being first gen meant I became
my own college counselor before
I even knew what a college counselor was.
Current Student

First Generation Student Facts

6.8 million current college students are first generation
Only 56% of first generation students will graduate within six years, compared to 74% of their continuing generation peers
We’re working to close the first generation graduation gap

Who is Forward F1rst For?

For Students & First Gen Alums
Personal Success - 
With over 4,000 members, the Forward F1rst Community connects first generation students and alumni from schools across the country and provides a platform for the discussions that move us all forward.
Join The Community
For Colleges & Universities
Academic Success Partnerships
Our First Generation Academic Success Programs are effective because they reach your students where they are with the information they need to succeed.
Learn More
For Employers
Professional Success Partnerships
Research has demonstrated that first generation students are gritty, persistent, adaptive, and resilient—traits they carry with them into the workforce. That’s why first generation students and graduates make ideal employees.
Learn More
We have a demonstrated track record of successful partnerships with Ivy League institutions, Liberal Arts Colleges, Women’s Colleges, and Engineering Schools.
We cultivate partnerships with institutions of higher education that have a demonstrated commitment to first generation student success.

First Generation Identity

First generation college students can't rely on their families for firsthand information about how to navigate the road to and through college.

In most cases, this is because they are the first in their family to go to college. But not always! For example, people pursuing full-time four-year degrees might also identify with first generation experiences if:

Their parents attended community college.
Their parents attended college in the evenings after work.
Their parents attended school outside of the United States.
They are estranged from their parents.

Forward F1rst intentionally uses a broad definition for first generation identity, and we’ve built the resources and community to support anyone who identifies as first generation.

First Generation Strengths


First generation students struggle on the road through college, but the courage to undertake this struggle reveals a strength that was there all along.


First generation students have experience persisting in their pursuit of long-term goals, as evidenced by the sustained efforts that help them forge a path to college.


First generation students’ path through college is nonlinear. They persist through the highs and lows of the transition to college, rising to the challenge each time.

Why are we a PBC?

Forward F1rst is a Public-Benefit Corporation

Forward F1rst was created to empower first generation students. We exist because of our mission, and we wanted to make sure we’ll always be dedicated to the students we serve.

A PBC is a company that prioritizes mission over profit, which ensures that we will first and foremost remain committed to moving first generation forward.

We’re not a non-profit organization, but we blend the mission-driven commitment of a non-profit with the flexibility and resources of a for-profit organization.

Helen Mayer

Founder and CEO

News from Forward F1rst

Be the first to join the Forward F1rst community!
Thursday, June 14, 2018
We're rolling out early access to the Forward F1rst community on July 1st and we'd like to invite you to apply now so you can be part of it!
Read More
We're Joining the MassChallenge Boston 2018 Accelerator!
Friday, June 8, 2018
Forward F1rst is thrilled to be joining the 2018 MassChallenge Boston accelerator program.
Read More

Are You a College Administrator?

Click here to learn more about how Forward F1rst
can help you serve your first generation students better.