If you are the first person in your family to attend college, navigating your way through the struggles of higher education may be more difficult without family members to guide you. Fortunately, there are many programs set-up to aid students in just these types of situations, and particularly scholarships designed for the first generation student. There are many types of these scholarships, but they can be broken down into three main categories: Company Sponsored Scholarships, State Sponsored Scholarships and College Specific Scholarships.

Company Sponsored Scholarships:

Many companies give back to their communities by sponsoring scholarship programs. Some companies require that you or a family member must work for their company, or a subsidiary of that company, to qualify, but for many the only requirement is the application itself. In terms of First Generation Scholarships, one the most well known is the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship. Beyond the obvious requirement of being the first member of the immediate family to pursue a college degree, students applying must have at least a 3.0 GPA, have a demonstrated record of community/school service, and meet all the requirements of full-time student status. Students must also submit a three hundred word essay that describes their accomplishments during the previous school year. Students must be re-nominated each year, and must continue to meet all of the previously described conditions. If the conditions are not met, the scholarship will be dropped. The Coca-Cola Scholarship provides 5,000.00 dollars annually.

Another example of a Company Sponsored Scholarships is the Mercedes Benz Drive Your Future Scholarship. This scholarship is also awarded to students who are the first in their families to pursue higher education, who are academically strong, but who do not have the necessary financial capability to attend college. The scholarship also expects that these students will in turn serve their communities in some capacity after graduation.

State Sponsored Scholarships:

Applicants for the Texas First Generation Scholarship must be enrolled full-time at the University of Texas Austin, and in turn, the student receives 10,000.00 annually in support of their education. As with the Coca-Cola scholarship, simply being the first member of a family to attend college is not enough to receive this scholarship. Students must be extremely competitive academically, and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. Many states have similar scholarship programs that require you attend select universities within the state, or simply to be attending a university within the state. It is important that students read the criteria carefully before submitting an application.

College Specific Scholarships:

A college specific scholarship, as the name suggests, is a scholarship given by a particular college or university to a student enrolled, or planning to enroll, in their institution. Catawba College in North Carolina provides two of these scholarships each year, but the competition for one of these awards is high. The recipients can receive a “free ride” as their award for competing. Catawba considers their first generation scholarship to be the most prestigious that they offer, so it is obvious that this institution takes supporting first generation students very seriously. As with the State Sponsored Scholarships, attending the university is a necessary component of the scholarship. Students must do adequate research on each institution’s programs, and focus, before applying.

Many universities sponsor their own scholarships for nursing students, but if you are first generation student, you might want to look more closely at the criteria. Many universities have institution specific scholarships, especially those sponsored by donors and alumni, with very specific criteria that must be met. This can be anything from being a nursing student living in a particular region to being a nursing student from a low-income background. And of course, there are scholarships for nursing students who are the first in their family to attend university. One such scholarship is sponsored by Northern Arizona University. The Betty Gendler Scholarship states that the student “must be an undergraduate second year, or an RN/BSN, minority preferred, interested in community health nursing, bilingual, or first-generation college student.” Applying for scholarships that are simply specific to being a nursing student puts potential scholarship receivers into a pool that consists of all other nursing students at that particular university. However, applying for this type of scholarship that narrows the field can significantly increase the probability of receiving an award toward education expenses.

First Generation students should be encouraged to apply for any and all opportunities that are available to them through these types of scholarship programs. It is never easy to be the first, especially when opportunities might have been limited in the past. These programs assure that motivated, dedicated students have every opportunity to succeed in their own career paths, as well as increasing the number of educated men and women coming out of universities with a mind toward improving their community with what they have learned.

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