First-Generation College Student

The concept of "first-generation" students was introduced into federal policy by the TRIO community in 1980, during passage of the Higher Education Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965. Yet, even in 2017, campuses and communities are too often blind to the academic capabilities and gifts that lie dormant within so many first-generation students. TRIO educators continue to be called upon to highlight the return on investment our country receives from providing first-generation students with an opportunity to reach their full potential through college.

In response, the COE Board, in partnership with NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and other higher education organizations, is asking college access and success professionals to join with TRIO's McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement and Student Support Services programs across the country for the First Annual First-Generation College Celebration on November 8, 2017 — the 52nd Anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

How to Participate

Possible ways to participate in the celebration include:

  • Campus rallies featuring notable first-generation alumni as well as other speakers
  • Panel discussions and forums featuring remarks by first-generation college students and faculty who were first-generation about their college experiences
  • Incorporation of first-generation faculty experiences into classroom discussions
  • Listening sessions by administration and faculty about first-generation students’ experiences and needs on campus
  • Creation of multimedia materials (including video messages) of first-generation students for use in admissions and faculty development sessions
  • Interviews with trustees, administrators, and faculty who are first-generation

COE also has plans for the First-Generation College Celebration that will be shared at our 36th Annual Conference, from September 13-16, 2017. More information about our Annual Conference is available here.


Communications efforts can and should involve multiple tactics that will help students identify other first-generation college-goers on campus and also boost support within the campus community.

These efforts should include:

  • Special First-Generation logo, possibly incorporating TRIO
  • Distribution of t-shirts, pins, hats, etc. bearing logo / *** For your celebrations, there are t-shirts, sweatshirts, bags, mugs, and stickers available in a variety of colors and styles at Teespring
  • Media coverage (local news stations, campus newspapers, etc.)
  • Social media campaign (use of a uniform hashtag across all social media platforms) / *** Please share your plans with us via social media using the hashtag #celebratefirstgen on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

Follow-Up Activities

To continue the momentum after this event, potential follow-up activities may include:

  • Creation of "First-Generation" clubs on campus.
  • Monthly gatherings (e.g., meals, social outings, etc.) of first-generation students and possibly faculty and administrators on campus.
  • Follow-up presentations to state legislators, boards of trustees and state higher education agencies by campus leaders and students.

Help all first-generation students on your campus find their voice!