What is First-Gen?

When applying for college or scholarships, there’s often one question that pops up, “Are you a first-generation college student?” While you may think the answer should be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ the actual definition of what a first-generation student is, is actually less black and white. Students at some universities are considered first-generation students if their parents do not have a college degree even if older siblings do, but this definition varies by institution. At Ball State, the official qualifications for being a first-generation college student are, “If you are the first in your family to attend college or if your parents or guardians did not complete a college degree,” according to the Ball State Student Affairs website.


Senior Leah Kahana remarks on her experience as a first-gen student, “It can be really overwhelming, coming in and not knowing what you’re doing. I came in without anyone to guide me, and what resources were available were in a transition period due to COVID. But my Academic Peer Mentor in DeHority was always reaching out, and helping me to access resources that the university had in place.”


Being a first-generation college student can pose a lot of challenges for those navigating such an unfamiliar landscape with no one to guide them, but that’s where Ball State comes in to provide resources for first-generation students. One major resource that Ball State provides first-gen students with is the connection, encouraging the average 1-in-3 first-gen students to be proud of their background and of their journey. One way that Ball State Honors College specifically helps to form these connections across first-generation students and faculty/staff members is through their Inclusive Excellence event: First-Generation Student and Self-Supporting Student Discussion.


Kahana also mentioned that, for first-generation students, navigating college socially is another challenge. But because the Honors College Inclusive Excellence Series’s First-Generation Student & Self-Supporting Student Discussion aims to allow students to talk to each other about their journeys, struggles, and triumphs, the event will also emphasize connection and social bonding.


Honor’s First-Generation & Self-Supporting Student Discussion Event:

This discussion between first-generation college students and self-supporting students will come together to share first-generation and self-supporting experiences, as well as strategize for enhancing our support mechanisms for Honors students (and beyond). As well as this, discussion will also highlight the pride and connection that all first-generation and self-supporting students should share and celebrate. On November 14th at 6:30 p.m. in the Ball Honors House, room 117, our first-generation and self-supporting faculty and students will come together to share experiences, explore resources, and celebrate their journeys together. Click here to learn more about this amazing event, which is open to all students (not just those in Honors!), hosted as a part of the Honor College’s Inclusive Excellence Series.



For Kahana, the biggest piece of advice is to not only use the university’s resources but to reach out to anyone who may be able to answer any of your questions. “Even if you’re not sure, reach out,” Kahana recommended, “and definitely follow-up, because even if they can’t answer your question, they can direct you to the person who can. Whether it’s Housing or another department, ask those questions and keep asking for answers.”

Those interested in learning about the resources provided by Ball State for first-generation students should visit this website on First-Generation at Ball State. Honors College Faculty Member, Elizabeth Dalton, is featured in an Honors Blog about being a First-Generation Student. In this blog, Professor Dalton speaks on the impact of the Honors College Whitinger Scholarship as a critical tool for her academic success.


First-Generation Student and Senior Leah Kahana works as a Student Ambassador for Ball State University’s Honors College.