The First-Generation Student Experience
Being the first in your family to attend college can be daunting and overwhelming, but it's also a testament to you and to your family's hard work and sacrifice. With that in mind we put together this page to give you a sense of what it's like to be a first-generation to college student on campus, as well as familiarize you with some of the resources that may be helpful for you during your time at Tufts.
As you continue with your college search, we hope you’ll consider joining us for the Voices of Tufts Diversity Experience during the fall of your senior year so you can connect directly with first-generation students at Tufts. And if you'd like to learn even more about the first-generation student experience, feel free to e-mail Christopher Flores or Trenton Manns '19 or reach out to the Diversity Admissions Council.
College Application Advice for First-Gen Students
- Recognize your unique and powerful experience. Tufts is proud to recruit first-generation students and we believe that as a first-gen student, you offer a distinct voice and valuable perspective to our community. While the college application process may be unfamiliar to you and your family, we hope you won’t underestimate the strengths you bring to this process, too, including resourcefulness, compassion, gratitude, flexibility, hopefulness, persistence, and more.
- Seek guidance from mentors and peers. Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you need advice or assistance with developing your college list, brainstorming your application essays, or completing the FAFSA and CSS Profile, don’t be afraid to identify the people or organizations in your community with greater knowledge of the admissions and financial aid process. College admissions officers like us, along with the content we share on our website, can also be a source of wisdom as you’re planning for next steps.
- Allow your assumptions to be challenged. We hope you’ll remain open-minded throughout the college search process and dig a little deeper when it comes to your beliefs about the purpose of college and how colleges operate. You might have heard people question the value of studying the liberal arts or express their frustration with the rising cost of higher education, but we encourage you to do your own research and form your own opinions about what a college education can offer you. For example, Tufts is one of about eighty U.S. colleges that meets the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students and we generally do not include loans in the financial aid packages of families with incomes under $60,000. That means that attending Tufts could be just as affordable (or even more affordable) when compared to a public university in your community. For a fast estimate of your eligibility for Tufts financial aid, check out the MyinTuition Quick College Cost Estimator.
Academic and Professional Resources on Campus
The FIRST Resource Center was founded to create a community of support and to develop a network of resources for Tufts’ first-generation, low-income, and undocumented communities. By strengthening the bonds between our community members and bridging the gap between Tufts’ resources and first-gen students, FIRST aims to ensure that first-gen students are empowered and prepared to reach their full social, professional, and academic potential. FIRST Resource Center goals include:
- Overseeing the first-generation peer leader program
- Providing a safe and inclusive space for undocumented students
- Providing a safe and inclusive space for students with intersecting marginalized identities
- Creating an inclusive space for first-generation students that promotes community
- Raising awareness, visibility, and pride as it relates to the student experiences of those affiliated with the Center
BEAST is a free, four-day pre-orientation program that focuses on the unique social and cultural experiences specific to students who may be the first in their families to attend college, and for students seeking guidance on navigating financial and academic resources at Tufts. BEAST provides participants support by acquainting them with useful resources and skills to navigate the sometimes complicated social and academic aspects of college life, all while connecting them to members of our community who are instrumental in helping our students succeed. As part of this, students will need to understand the structure of Tufts, Boston, and the local community. With that in mind, events include exploring Boston and the various modes of transport throughout the city, a financial workshop led by specialized Tufts faculty, and in-depth discussions with experienced Tufts students sharing insight into their personal journeys as first-generation and/or low-income.
FGC is a student organization committed to uniting and championing pride within Tufts’ first-generation student community. The First-Generation Student Collective hosts meetings and programs throughout the academic year, including:
- Workshops to support first-gen students in achieving their academic and personal goals
- Welcome Panel during Orientation week that features sophomore, junior, and senior students who share their experiences as first-gen students at Tufts and resources they have utilized to enhance their success
- Opportunities for community building through bonding exercises, group discussions, and biweekly hangouts with food, music, and games
- Fall and Spring semester dinners, where students can share meals and connect with the first-gen community
- “I’m First” photo campaign, where students, staff, and faculty share what being first-gen at Tufts means to them
The mission of the Tufts Career Center is to foster transformational experiences that shape the lifelong professional, academic and personal development of Tufts students and alumni. Their services support undergraduate and graduate students from the earliest stages of career exploration through alumni career management. In one-on-one sessions, Career Center advisors discuss topics related to self-assessment, choosing a major, resumes and cover letters, networking, internship and job searches, interviewing, graduate or professional school applications, and much more. Daily drop-in hours are also offered in several locations with no appointment needed.
CMHS employs a diverse team of clinicians deeply committed to helping students navigate challenges related to mental health and well-being. They offer a range of free and confidential services to all undergraduates and to graduate students who have paid the Health Fee. Each year, approximately 25% of Tufts students seek support through their services, which include individual therapy, groups and workshops, consultations, and off-campus referrals. Among CMHS’ weekly and bi-weekly groups are sessions for students impacted by undocumented status, students who identify as trans* or gender non-conforming, and international students adjusting to life in the United States.
Our Division of Student Diversity and Inclusion, led by the Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, includes our six identity-based resource centers. The Africana Center, Asian American Center, FIRST Resource Center, Latino Center, LGBT Center, and Women’s Center are physical spaces for socializing and club meetings, but also provide sources of comfort and belonging for underrepresented students at Tufts.
The Office of Scholar Development helps students access opportunities for independent research and sponsored scholarship. They assist students with the application processes for national fellowships and awards and support students with navigating on-campus research opportunities, such as the Summer Scholars program.
The StAAR Center, formerly the separate offices of Student Accessibility Services and the Academic Resource Center, provide academic support services to all Tufts undergraduates. The StAAR Center values the individuality of each student, offering a number of different types of free programs to help students reach their full potential while at Tufts. Specific programs include:
- Accessibility services for students with disabilities
- Academic coaching to support students in their academic work
- Individual student support
- Academic skills and discipline-specific workshops to develop foundational skills
- Tutoring for specific academic classes
- Writing support for undergraduates
- StAAR resources and workshops
Any Tufts student who may have a diagnosed disability (chronic health, cognitive, sensory, physical, mental health, etc.) that fundamentally impacts one or more of their major life functions should consider registering with the StAAR center. The STAAR Center supports students with appropriate academic, housing, transportation and dining based accommodations depending on the individual nature of their disability.
Many undergraduate students work part-time work study or non-work study jobs during their time at Tufts. These positions can help students refine their career interests, develop essential job skills, and earn some additional funds for books and personal expenses. Student Employment maintains a job listing for on-campus work study, on-campus non-work study, and off-campus part-time positions on Handshake, the Career Center’s recruiting platform.
Tufts has been offering study abroad programs for over five decades and currently offers ten undergraduate programs for juniors (and occasionally seniors) to study in Chile, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The aim of Tufts Programs Abroad is integration into a foreign university and the cultural and social life of the host country.
The programs are organized to encourage students to continue their study of the language, culture, and history of the host country while completing course requirements for graduation and their major. Each of the programs is headed by a resident director who oversees academic and administrative aspects of the program and who serves as an academic and cultural adviser to the students. There are also faculty-led summer abroad programs in Cadiz, Spain and Pavia, Italy, along with a six-week program at the Tufts European Center in Talloires, France.
Established in 2008, Tufts' Center for STEM Diversity works in partnership with the School of Engineering and the School of Arts and Sciences to foster a diverse and inclusive science and engineering learning environment. The Center focuses on strengthening meaningful student participation in science and engineering, specifically for traditionally underrepresented groups including women, African Americans, Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, and those who identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx. The Center also works intentionally with first-generation college students and with students from low-income backgrounds. The Center's program's include:
- Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST)
- Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)
- Redefining the Image of Science and Engineering (RISE) Seminar
- STEM Ambassadors