The Best Colleges For First Generation Students

Amanda Postma
by Amanda Postma
Study - 2 weeks ago

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Going to college for anyone can be scary.

But for first generational students, it’s entirely new territory.

It can be overwhelming trying to find the best college to attend, especially when some schools do a really bad job of helping first-generation students acclimate to the college environment.

With this in mind, we came to the conclusion that first-generation students have more struggles and worst outcomes than other students. So, which college should you choose?

We did the research for you and found that these colleges were best, and most helpful, for first-generation students.

The Top 10 Colleges

  1. Stanford University
  2. Middlebury College
  3. Duke University
  4. Vanderbilt University
  5. Cornell University
  6. Yale University
  7. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
  8. Brown University
  9. Johns Hopkins University
  10. University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Maybe you’re excited about going to college. Maybe you’re excited to get a more in-depth education than your parents did. Whatever the reason, we wanted to make sure you made the best choice for you. Keep reading to figure out how we determined these were the best schools for you.

How We Determined The Best Schools For First-Generation College Students

There are a multitude of factors that contribute to first-generation students’ success in college. Active and supportive student organizations, personal life circumstances, financial support, and academic programs are all a few areas that can contribute to student performance. However, for this study, we focused on a few metrics to measure success:

Using data from the US Department Of Education’s College Scorecard,We ranked over 1,800 universities in 3 areas:

  • Percent of first-generation students who completed within 4 years at original institution
  • Five-year repayment rate for first-generation students
  • The median debt for first-generation students

The lower the score in each category the better. For example, a college that graduated every single one of its first-generation college students would have a 100% completion rate and receive a #1 in that category.

We only looked at 4-year universities. While junior colleges can be an excellent choice for first-generation students (and serve as a bridge from high school to university for those who wish to go on to receive their 4-year degree), we wanted to examine the colleges that do best with students from freshman year on.

Keep reading to see why these 10 schools made an A, or scroll down to see the best school for first-generation students in each state.

1. Stanford University

Source: Wikipedia

Completion Rate: 84%
Repayment Percentage: 89%
Median Debt: $8,009

All the way in Stanford, California, is our first choice for first-generation students. Stanford University boasts high completion rates of 84% for first-generation students, and 89% of them are able to repay their debt 5 years after graduation!

2. Middlebury College

Source: Wikipedia

Completion Rate: 89%
Repayment Percentage: 83%
Median Debt: $8,695

Middlebury College, located in Vermont, is next in line. This particular school sets a high standard for first-generation students, which is why 89% of them graduate in four years.

3. Duke University

Source: Flickr

Completion Rate: 92%
Repayment Percentage: 87%
Median Debt: $10,925

The next university earns its spot at No. 3 in the country for its 92% completion rate among first-generation students. Duke University knows the importance of success when it comes to first-generation students.

4. Vanderbilt University

Source: Wikimedia

Completion Rate: 90%
Repayment Percentage: 87%
Median Debt: $11,500

Vanderbilt is the fourth-best option for first-generation students. That’s due to having the fifth-best completion rate in the U.S. with 90% of first-generation students graduating within four years. Well, that and the fact that 87% of those students repay their debt within five years of graduation.

5. Cornell University

Source: Wikimedia

Completion Rate: 87%
Repayment Percentage: 88%
Median Debt: $11,813

Halfway through the list is Cornell University. The college has one of the highest completion rates of 87% among first-generation students while having an even higher repayment percentage of 88%. It’s clear that students who choose Cornell are set up for nothing but success.

6. Yale University

Source: Pixabay

Completion Rate: 89%
Repayment Percentage: 81%
Median Debt: $10,000

Yale University makes an appearance at No. 6. This ranking is mainly based on the fact that 89% of first-generation students graduate within four years, which is the sixth-highest percentage in the country. We know one thing is true at Yale; they certainly care about your education.

7. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Source: Wikimedia

Completion Rate: 85%
Repayment Percentage: 79%
Median Debt: $12,499

The next university on the list is located in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center earns its seventh-best ranking due to 85% of first-generation students graduating within four years.

8. Brown University

Source: Wikimedia

Completion Rate: 80%
Repayment Percentage: 88%
Median Debt: $12,755

Stopping at Providence, Rhode Island brings us to our next college: Brown University. The school boasts an 80% completion rate and an 88% repayment percentage among its first-generation students. Additionally, those students at Brown typically average only $12,755 in their debt.

9. Johns Hopkins University

Source: Pixabay

Completion Rate: 79%
Repayment Percentage: 77%
Median Debt: $12,500

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is the ninth-most supportive school for first-generation students. In fact, 79% of those students graduate from this university within the typical four years. Plus, 77% pay off their debt in five years.

10. University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Source: Wikimedia

Completion Rate: 72%
Repayment Percentage: 79%
Median Debt: $12,588

The University of Washington-Seattle Campus is the 10th-most supportive college in the United States. While it’s 72% completion rate is high, the college’s 79% repayment percentage is definitely something to brag about. As a first-generation student, this college knows it shouldn’t break the bank to get a good education.

Summary of the Best Colleges for First-Generation Students

Not all colleges are alike. In fact, most aren’t as supportive of first-generation students as these 10 colleges we named above. Whatever college you choose as a first-generation student, you want to make sure the college supports you. Check out the list below to discover the most supportive college in each state.

State Institution Completion Rate Repayment
Alabama Samford University 57% 73%
Alaska University of Alaska Southeast 29% 58%
Arizona University of Arizona 50% 67%
Arkansas University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences 83% 78%
California Stanford University 84% 89%
Colorado University of Colorado Boulder 52% 72%
Connecticut Yale University 89% 81%
Delaware University of Delaware 70% 76%
Florida University of Miami 71% 75%
Georgia Emory University 85% 80%
Hawaii Brigham Young University-Hawaii 46% 74%
Idaho Brigham Young University-Idaho 35% 75%
Illinois Northwestern University 81% 80%
Indiana Taylor University 66% 82%
Iowa Dordt University 64% 90%
Kansas Bethany College 44% 72%
Kentucky Berea College 56% 66%
Louisiana Louisiana State University and Agricultural Mechanical College 51% 73%
Maine Unity College 70% 70%
Maryland Johns Hopkins University 79% 77%
Massachusetts Tufts University 73% 89%
Michigan Albion College 56% 77%
Minnesota St Olaf College 80% 88%
Mississippi Millsaps College 55% 73%
Missouri Washington University in St Louis 84% 84%
Montana Montana State University 37% 75%
Nebraska University of Nebraska-Lincoln 49% 75%
Nevada University of Nevada-Reno 50% 70%
New Hampshire Franklin Pierce University 47% 74%
New Jersey The College of New Jersey 75% 82%
New Mexico New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 31% 87%
New York Cornell University 87% 88%
North Carolina Duke University 92% 87%
North Dakota Valley City State University 40% 72%
Ohio Cedarville University 51% 84%
Oklahoma University of Tulsa 58% 73%
Oregon Oregon Health Science University 88% 85%
Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania 81% 84%
Rhode Island Brown University 80% 88%
South Carolina Erskine College 51% 75%
South Dakota University of Sioux Falls 51% 77%
Tennessee Vanderbilt University 90% 87%
Texas Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 85% 79%
Utah Brigham Young University-Provo 49% 84%
Vermont Middlebury College 89% 83%
Virginia University of Virginia-Main Campus 84% 84%
Washington University of Washington-Seattle Campus 72% 79%
West Virginia Alderson Broaddus University 33% 70%
Wisconsin University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 59% 81%
Wyoming University of Wyoming 43% 76%

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