GWU students holding a picture frame that says

What is a First-Gen Student?

Being a first-generation student means being the first in one’s family (excluding siblings) to attend college. This includes students whose parents graduated with an Associate’s degree or took some four-year courses but never completed their undergraduate studies. First-generation (or first-gen) students are often left to navigate college without the direct guidance of family members who have gone through the same experience. Because of this, many of these students face challenges such as financial constraints, a lack of familial understanding while dealing with academic issues, and limited access to resources and networks that can aid in their college journey. Despite these hurdles, first-generation students are exemplars of ambition and bring resilience, diverse perspectives, and a determination to succeed in any college environment.

How We Support First-Gen Students?

Gardner-Webb’s Division of Student Success is committed to walking alongside first-gen students as they navigate the complexities of a college environment. Through in-person events and online resources, we aim to help first-gen students find resources to succeed and connect with the other students who share similar experiences.

We offer many services, including:

  • Academic Support Services: These include staff advisors, success coaches, and peer tutors which will work alongside of a student to help them find the right courses and succeed in their academic endeavors.
  • Orientation Programs: Our University 111 program offers spaces where first-gen students can get oriented to campus life, learn about the expectations that come with being part of a college community, and learn about what other resources are available to help them thrive during their time in school and beyond.
  • Community Building: Through on-campus events and residential experiences, we offer spaces for first-gen students to connect with the greater GWU community.
  • FirstGen Student Celebration: The Division of Student Success hosts an annual “First-Gen Celebration” during which we celebrate all it means to be a first-gen student. This is a great way to help students find others who are part of the first-gen community.

By implementing these support systems, our college aims to help first-generation students overcome obstacles, thrive academically, and achieve their full potential.

Gardner-Webb Loves Our First-Gen Students!

  • Kara Alves

    Director of Success Initiatives and First Year Experiences

    (704) 406-2297

GWU student showing the back of her t-shirt which says "proud to be first"