This article was originally posted by, October 22, 2014.

Are you a high school student who will be the first in your family to attend college? Congratulations — you have something to celebrate! You are part of a large community of aspiring first-generation college students!

As you might have already discovered, selecting a college can be a daunting task. It’s difficult for anyone, and it can be particularly overwhelming for students whose parents did not go through the process themselves. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.

So, where should you begin? The college search process is slightly different for first-gens. Yes, it’s important to consider a school’s location, size, academics, campus life, and financial aid opportunities. However, one thing that students don’t often ask themselves is, “What’s in it for me? How is this school going to support me as a first-generation college student?” The fact is, first-gens drop out of college at four times the rate of their peers whose parents received a bachelor’s degree, so access to good information and support in the pursuit of college is that much more critical.

At the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping first-generation college students, we stress the importance of degree persistence. We want to be sure that first-gens are not just getting into college, but also getting through. College success is made easier at institutions that have campus programs and support services for first-gens. What should matter most to aspiring first-gens is finding schools that have such programs in place.

You may have heard about, CSO’s online community that supports first-gens on the path to and through college. CSO partners with nearly 200 four-year colleges and universities located throughout the United States. These schools are committed to serving first-gens via a variety of on-campus services. In addition, publishes online profiles geared especially to meet the information needs of aspiring first-gens. The college profiles include:

  • An overview of the school.
  • Descriptions of campus programs and opportunities for first-generation college students.
  • Fast facts that provide data on student diversity, student success, affordability, and admissions.
  • Contact information.

If you haven’t done so already, sign up at to create your free student profile. Then, you can search through the nearly 200 college profiles and let individual institutions know when you want to learn more by clicking the “I’m Interested” button. Start the conversation with potential schools early and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more you learn about an institution during the college search process, the more informed your decision will be.

Don’t forget to check out these additional resources offered at

  • I’m First! Scholarship, a renewable, four -year award given to high school seniors who will be the first in their families to go to college and who are attending one of our College Partner institutions. Recipients have the unique privilege to serve as student bloggers on!
  • Blog, where I’m First! Scholarship winners share their college experiences and offer advice to aspiring first-gen students on how to make it to and through college.
  • I’m First! Stories, where first-generation college students and graduates can share their personal experiences by way of our video campaign. For an example, click on the photo above to hear Alicia’s story.

Let us be among the FIRST to wish you well in your college search and selection, the first step to proudly declaring, “I’m First!”