First Generation College Students Advantage
Originally Published on January 19, 2019:
Do students who will be the first in their families to attend college enjoy an advantage in the highly selective college admissions process? You bet they do! America’s elite universities love to admit students whose parents did not attend college. They do so hoping to grease the wheels of their socioeconomic mobility.
After all, when one of our nation’s elite universities offers admission to a student who will be the first in their family to attend college, they feel like they’re helping make the student’s whole family’s American dream come to fruition. And that’s pretty cool — wouldn’t you say?
It’s why when colleges release information on their incoming class, they almost always cite the percentage of students who will be the first in their families to attend college. For instance, of the admitted students to Harvard University’s Class of 2027, nearly 20% qualified as first-generation.
Who Qualifies as a First-Generation College Student?
In 2019, Ivy Coach was cited in a piece in The Santa Fe New Mexican by Harry McGuinness on first-generation college students. In the piece, McGuinness points out that what constitutes a first-generation college student can be blurry, depending on the individual institution’s definition.
As a rule of thumb, students whose parents did not attend college are considered first-generation college students at most highly selective colleges.
In the piece, some questioned whether a student still qualifies as a first-generation college student if an older sibling attended college. They are, indeed! Siblings are members of the same generation — the first generation to attend college. At most highly selective universities, it doesn’t matter if a cousin attended college before the applicant. It doesn’t matter if an uncle attended college. All that matters is if a student’s parents attended college.
Admissions Officers Root for First-Generation College Students
As Ivy Coach is quoted in the piece in The Santa Fe New Mexican, “Brian Taylor, managing director at the college admissions preparation firm Ivy Coach, said colleges prefer first-generation students over even legacy students, the relatives of past alumni, that are typically considered highly sought-after in the college-recruitment process. ‘Highly selective colleges love when student’s parents and grandparents didn’t go to college,’ Taylor said. ‘These are students who admissions officers can easily get behind and root for.’”
As they should! When so many slots in elite college admissions are reserved for legacies, development cases, and recruited athletes in sports like squash, field hockey, lacrosse, and golf, it feels appropriate that these schools would earmark slots for students whose parents did not attend college. It’s a way for these schools to try to even the playing field in their admissions process and our American meritocracy.
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