Students at Cleveland State University visit a table at a first-generation celebration in this archival photo. Credit: Cleveland State University

An estimated one in three of America’s undergraduate college students is a first-generation college student. That’s about five million people, according to The Center for First-Generation Success

Some Ohio universities define first-generation as students whose parents’ highest education level is a high school degree or less. 

Compared to people who aren’t the first in their families to go to college, the Center reports, first-gen students have fewer financial resources. They attend college at lower rates. And those who do end up going earn four-year degrees at lower percentages. 

Carrying this label can be part of a person’s identity, too. It is for me. I became the first person in my family to graduate from college when I walked across the stage at the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall more than a decade ago. But it wasn’t until I started reporting on higher education that I realized how the first-gen lens shaped – and, to be frank, continues to impact  – my experiences as well as how I see myself. 

We’re looking to connect with other Cleveland residents who are either current first-gen students or first-gen graduates. Please fill out the form below to share your experiences. 

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Higher Education Reporter (she/her)
Amy, who’s worked in both local and national newsrooms for nearly a decade, previously covered higher education at Crain's Cleveland Business in partnership with the national nonprofit news organization Open Campus. A first-generation college graduate, Amy is committed to highlighting the voices of students in her coverage.