Definitions and Terms

What is a First-Generation Student?

The term first-generation college student applies to those students whose parent(s) or legal guardian(s) either:

  • Did not receive or complete any level of post-secondary education
  • Enrolled at or earned a two-year degree from a community college
  • Earned any level of post-secondary education outside the United States.

As of Fall 2019, George Mason University reported that 20% of first-time freshmen were first-generation college students, whereas 28% were undergraduate degree-seeking first-generation college students. First-generation college students face various challenges when trying to excel both academically and socially within college. This happens because first-generation students come from various backgrounds, many of which have very limited knowledge about the details of college. Because this is the case, it is important to provide first-generation students with the support needed in order to succeed in college and make the most out of that experience.

You can visit F1rstGen Mason, a website dedicated to first-generation students, here: http://www.f1rstgen.org or email them at firstgen@gmu.edu

“When I think of first generation college students [like me], I think of someone who’s motivated to do something that hasn’t been done in their family yet. To inspire someone else in their family or maybe inspire someone else who is also a first generation student.” (Cole, Class of 2018)

What does it mean to be protected by DACA or TPS?

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an executive order that temporarily defers eligible undocumented youth from deportation for two years, subject to renewal. It provides access to Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a Social Security Number, a driver’s license, and advance parole. Deferred action does not lead to permanent legal status.*Not all students have access to DACA

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigration status provided to nationals from designated countries facing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary conditions preventing their safe return. TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent legal status or give any other immigration status.

Note: As of February 2021, these undocumented communities (undocumented and those protected by DACA and TPS) currently do not have a clear pathway to U.S. citizenship, meaning a sense of urgency and need for services, funding, and policy change for college students with these statuses.