First-Gen College Students Offered Support via APU's GEN1 Scholars Program

As the start of another academic year approaches in the fall, for many students, the transition to college means beginning an entirely new tradition in their family as one of the millions of first-generation college students across America.

One thing first-gen college students should know is that they’re not the only ones on campus who are learning as they go, or turning to others for help. Many Azusa Pacific University students have been the first in their families to navigate the transition to college, and the school offers resources to support this growing population. If you’re a first-gen student planning to attend college, you may have questions about how to make the transition a smooth one. That’s understandable! Here’s what you need to know.

APU Provides Specialized Support to First-Gen Students

Cassandra Gonzalez, MPA, figured out how to successfully navigate the college experience as the first in her family to pursue higher education. Today, she is the coordinator for the GEN1 Scholars Program at APU, where she assists students as they apply to school, transition to college life, and work toward attaining their degree.

One of Gonzalez’s main goals is ensuring students know that the program offers them support during their entire college journey—from when they first find out about APU and throughout their time on campus. She said that making this connection early on enables first-gen students to build a strong sense of community from the moment they arrive. Best of all, there’s no additional application process to take advantage of the support offered by the program.

“What we say to students is that the moment they say ‘yes’ to APU is the moment they become GEN1 Scholars,” said Gonzalez. “We want them to have a safe space where they can have the vulnerability to ask those questions that they need to ask.”

Creating a Tight-Knit Community on Campus

APU’s GEN1 Scholars Program also allows enrollees to get to know each other at monthly get-togethers. During these events, professors and administrators help answer questions and expand students’ networks. Meeting on a regular basis helps first-gen students—who make up 36 percent of the APU student population—build relationships with others who have the same questions and experiences as them.

Although requesting help and joining these events don’t require an application, some of the school’s more specialized benefits do have an application process. For example, starting in fall 2019, APU will offer a first-gen living-learning community, which will group together 16 to 28 students to strengthen their learning experiences and allow for collaborative support.

GEN1 scholars can also apply for a mentor. The mentorship program matches students with a member of APU’s faculty and staff for individualized support. Additionally, there are many student resources that can help students adjust to campus life and academics, as well as resources for their parents.

The GEN1 Scholars Program Is Nationally Recognized

Now in its second year, the GEN1 program has already received the First Forward designation from the NASPA Foundation, which acknowledges institutions of higher education for their commitment to first-generation student success. Azusa Pacific University’s dedication, along with students’ participation and feedback, has helped shape the program and provided a foundation for offerings that continue to evolve to meet students’ needs.


dents, faculty, and staff have worked to create a rewarding experience that helps first-gen college students adjust to campus life and succeed academically. These strides forward mean that all APU students have access to an exciting and engaging educational experience as they take their first steps toward a brighter future.

Gonzalez credits APU’s students for actively being a part of the GEN1 program and giving back to the campus community just as much as they’ve benefited from it. “They really built the program to where it is today,” she said. “A lot of the programs that we have are because of our students.”

Will you be the first member of your family to attend college? Explore Azusa Pacific University’s Academic Success Center resources and learn more about how the school can help you make this transition.