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First-generation students come from families where neither parent nor guardian has a four-year degree from a college or university. 

Around 20-25% of OSU students self-identify as first-gen.

Helping you succeed by supporting and serving students who identify as first-generation

Attending college as a first-generation student is a new, exciting experience that can come with many questions. At OSU, we are committed to helping you feel supported as you navigate your college journey. The Division of Access and Community Impact equips students with numerous resources for academic excellence.

First-Gen Forward Council

OSU has been designated a First-Gen Forward Campus by NASPA
The First-Gen Forward Council was created to address the needs of our first-generation students long term. The council has set goals to increase campus-wide awareness and visibility, support increases in retention, persistence, and graduation rates, and develop a campus-wide support network for all first-generation students. 
This council is also responsible for hosting the National First-Gen Day Celebration, a day dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the first-gen students on OSU's campus. 
First-Generation College Celebration Logo

Need help? Contact us!

Nicole Stevenson

Nicole Stevenson First-Gen Forward Co-Chair, Assistant Director of McNair Scholars ProgramDivision of Access and Community 

LeAnne Hutchins

LeAnne Hutchins First-Gen Forward Member, Coordinator for Student EngagementCampus 

National First-Gen Day 2023

Celebrating the success of first-generation students
Join the OSU First-Gen Forward Committee, Division of Access and Community Impact, Campus Life and other campus partners to celebrate National First-Generation Day on Wednesday, November 8th! Join us for food and activities starting at 12 p.m. on the Student Union Plaza, and at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the Student Union Theater for Military and family movie night.
First-Gen Celebration Flyer

First-Generation ProgramsCoordinated by the Division of Access and Community Impact & Other Departments


The Retention Initiative for Student Excellence (RISE) program assists a select group of talented first-year students transitioning from high school to OSU.

Learn more


We proudly host outreach and comprehensive support services programs to assist first-generation, low-income, or otherwise underrepresented students in higher education.

Learn more

McNair Scholars Program

The McNair Scholars Program is a federally funded TRIO Program that provides encouragement, guidance, and mentorship to underrepresented students in preparation for graduate school.

Learn more


Connect with fellow first-generation students and gain an extensive support system through this year-long mentorship program, housed under Campus Life.

Learn more

OSU Library First-Gen College Student Employment-Mentor Experience

This assistantship job is open to freshman first-generation students and upon hire, they 
are paired with a peer mentor and a senior mentor from the library’s staff. 

Learn more

What can these programs do for our first-gen student? We know that... 

  • First-gen students are less likely to engage with adults in professional settings and are more receptive to peer interactions.

    Engagement in programs on campus is a great way to get your students to interact with peers as well as faculty and staff! Through building these connections, students are more likely to have access to resources such as mentoring, referrals, recommendation letters, and more!

  • First-gen students report anxiety surrounding campus engagement. 

    We know that students who are involved in two or more campus activities have lower stress levels, less incidence of depression, higher GPAs, and higher graduation rates! Through programming, we encourage students to challenge themselves and attend campus events, fun and educational alike! Additionally, peer mentors can help show first-gen students the ropes on how to get involved, helping to resolve some of that initial anxiety!

  • First-gen students are less likely to utilize academic advising and support services.

    OSU's first-gen programming actively points students to utilize academic advising and support services early in the year! Most programs set a GPA requirement to participate, holding students accountable and supporting them in their goal to keep their grades high.

  • First-gen students experience a higher need for financial aid services. 

    OSU's first-gen programs work diligently to connect students with Financial Aid, helping students learn how to pay for college, understand their bursar bill, and so much more! Additionally, students are encouraged to attend financial workshops designed to help students build financial management skills. Some programs, such as RISE and Student Support Services, offer scholarship opportunities for students who actively participate. 

  • First-generation students are less likely to be proactive in seeking help.

    Some first-gen students resist asking for help because they fear that faculty or staff won't understand how to meet their needs. However, many of our faculty and staff are first-gen as well and eager to see you succeed!

    Our programs are designed to make sure we are informing students how to utilize academic, mental health, financial, and basic needs resources, so they won't be left wondering where they can get help. Additionally, peer mentors are fantastic at not only showing first-gen students the "ropes", but also destigmatizing asking for help when needed.

  • Sense of belonging has a strong relationship to persistence and retention. 

    It is incredibly important that students find a "home" away from home while at OSU! The more positive relationships a student can form with peers and professionals, the more likely they are to feel like they matter and belong on campus. If your student isn't sure where to get involved, our first-gen programs can offer an immediate sense of belonging by connecting them to other students and peers with a shared identity, and often shared experiences. Many of the connections created within these programs turn into life-long friendships and open up a whole new network of opportunities!

How can parents support their first-generation students?

  • Be aware of the emotions your student is going through. 

    Here are some common feelings your first-generation students may be experiencing as they make their transition to campus:

    • Excitement and Anxiety- Many students are thrilled, but simultaneously frightened about being away from home, living on their own, and being the first in the family to attend college. They may doubt their ability to succeed even when they are presented with positive indicators of success, such as good grades, because college can feel very daunting.
    • Responsibility- Many first-generation students help pay for their education, sometimes more so than students with higher socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition to financial responsibility, many students may feel pressured by friends and family to return home and may receive mixed messages about their changing identity and status as a college student.
    • Pride- First-generation students often feel a sense of pride about being the first person in their family to attend and complete college. We want to support them in the fact that they are accomplishing something very important and beneficial for their futures!
    • Guilt- Some first-generation students may feel guilt over the fact that they are attending college while their family members did not get the same opportunity. They may wonder if it is fair of them to be attending college, especially if their family members are struggling back home. In addition, they may feel guilt surrounding not being present to support their families.
    • Embarrassment and Shame- In some cases, students may feel embarrassment or shame over socioeconomic status or the level of education in their family. There may be embarrassment related to this difference when interacting with peers, particularly if their peers have a long lineage of family members who have attended college or OSU specifically.
    • Confusion- First-generation students may feel “out of the loop” when it comes to college processes and procedures because they have no prior exposure to what that looks like. They also may not be aware of the many resources available to them or their options post graduation.
  • Be aware of the transitions your student is going through. 
    • August- Overall excitement, homesickness, initial roommate worries, abuse of freedom, multiple calls or visits home
    • September- First round of tests, potential roommate challenges
    • October- Six-week grades, decision making surrounding schoolwork, friends, family, and fitting in, and developing/consequences of study habits
    • November- Fall illness, tests and papers due, enrollment for next semester, applying for scholarships, apprehension or excitement about returning home for fall break
    • December- Winter weather concerns, continued mixed feelings about returning home for break, final exams
    • January- New semester, decisions regarding fall semester performance and making adjustments
    • February- Winter blues, missing family, making decisions for the next year, filing FAFSA
    • March- Spring Break, evaluating major choices, midterms, summer employment or internship stress
    • April- Potential severe spring storms, end of semester approaching
    • May- Final exams, last minute summer planning, deciding to stay in Stillwater or return home, sadness at leaving friends, end of school year
  • Familiarize yourself with college language and support services.

    The First Gen Dictionary is just as much for students as it is for their family and friends that are supporting them through college. When you learn the language associated with college, having  conversations with your students will make more sense and help you get invested in what’s happening in their lives.

    Familiarizing yourself with support services offered on campus can be another great way to encourage your student to take charge of their academics! Read about what the LASSO Center, Math Learning Success Center, and Writing Center can academically support your student. 

  • Reach out to staff and faculty with questions.

    Staff and Faculty can be a great resource for families as well as their students. OSU values the role that parents and families play in their student’s education and would be happy to answer questions and make sure they also feel supported. When you are informed, your students are also better informed! Big or small, we are here to make sure you get your questions answered. 

  • Provide emotional support to your student. 

    Your students want you to ask about what is going on in their lives! It can be difficult to be away from family for the first time, so having check-ins with your students can make them feel more connected to home. This additionally shows that you are invested in their life at OSU and their educational journey and can also help you feel more connected to Oklahoma State University as a member of the Cowboy Family.  Visiting when possible is also a great way to show investment in your student’s life and allows you to experience the OSU community and what it has to offer.

  • Encourage your students to get involved. 

    Getting involved on campus is one of the best ways to make OSU your student's “home” away from home. Involvement will allow your students to find community with others who have shared interests, increasing their sense of belonging, build leadership and communication skills, and build peer and professional networks. 

  • Celebrate the "wins"!

    Always remember to celebrate “wins” with your students! Encouragement and celebration of accomplishments can go a long way in boosting the morale of your student! Whether they got a better grade on a test than was expected, survived a tough week, or won a scholarship, each win deserves to be celebrated and can make you feel more connected to your student and their journey at OSU!

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