Colleges are interested in improving diversity on their campuses and increasing opportunities for students who may not be as privileged as others. To accomplish these goals, college admissions officers often give an edge to applicants who will be first-generation college students. But who counts as a first-generation college student? The answer is not as simple as it may appear.
If neither of your parents have a four-year college degree, you will obviously be classified as a first-generation college student, but what if your parents have a four-year degree obtained outside of the United States? This is where it gets complicated. According to an admissions officer at a selective university in the northeast, if all of your parents’ degrees were obtained abroad, and you are applying as a domestic student, you will be classified as a first-generation college student. Hence, even if your parents are Russian PhD’s, if none of their degrees were obtained in the United States, you will still count as first generation. On the other hand, even if your parents completed the majority of their education abroad but did some level of graduate work in America, you will not be considered a first-generation college student. Unfair? Absolutely, considering that a student whose parents completed only graduate studies (Masters or higher) in the United States are often lacking in as much information about the process as students classified as first generation. Thus, even if colleges do not officially consider you first generation, if your parents completed their undergraduate education (Bachelors degree) abroad, you will benefit from reading articles and blogs aimed at first-generation college students such as the ones to be posted as a part of this series.
If you are first generation, how do you notify college admissions officers? On the Common Application, there is a place where students are asked to provide information concerning their parents’ education. Universities can use this to classify applicants as first-generation college students. Remember, even if you are first generation, you should still aim to have good grades and strong extracurricular activities. First-generation status is not enough to tip the scale in college admissions if you do not have a good record otherwise.