First-Generation College Students

We know that starting college can be both overwhelming and exhilarating, and being the first in your family to attend college can just take those feelings to the next level. There are a variety of resources here at Cornell to support you throughout your college experience, from your first day on campus all the way through your graduation and beyond! Please know that Cornell Engineering is a welcoming and supportive community for students from all walks of life.

Helpful hints for your college application process

Applying to college is an experience like none that you’ve had before. There are thousands of colleges and universities to consider, each offering their own unique qualities. You’ll find small institutions, large institutions, institutions in every setting from rural areas to the largest cities, and institutions both close to home and far away. You can focus your studies on any subject you can imagine, perhaps even one you didn’t know existed! As you’re thinking about all of these things, here are some hints on how to focus your search and narrow down all of your options:

  • Start your search early. By the beginning of your junior year in high school, start compiling a list of institutions that may be of interest to you. At this point, it’s all right if your list is fairly long, but we strongly recommend narrowing down the list by the beginning of your senior year.
  • Think about your interests, your strengths, and what you’d like to get out of your time at college. Use these as guidelines to narrow down your list.
  • Use resources that are already available to you such as school guidance counselors, teachers, and Community Based Organizations (CBOs). Don’t be afraid to check in with some of your peers who have recently been through the process. You can also check in with admissions officers at the institutions you’re learning about.
  • If you are able, visit colleges and universities; go on their campus tours and attend information sessions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions during your visit, and follow up with additional questions by email afterwards. At Cornell, we have a variety of activities for prospective students available on some Mondays and Fridays, as well as occasional Saturdays, in the summer and fall.
  • As you look for the best colleges and/or universities for yourself, you want to be aware of your finances. Although it can be expensive, attending the institution of your choice should not have to be a financial burden. There are a variety of financial aid opportunities available, and each institution will have their own financial aid office that can answer questions about institution-specific financial aid. Here at Cornell, we know that everyone’s financial situation is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Cornell's Office of Financial Aid has an abundance of information on their website, including the various types of financial aid that are available as well as their contact information if you have additional questions. We strongly encourage you to set aside some time with your parents to enter your family’s financial information in to the Financial Aid Calculator to get an estimate of financial aid eligibility from Cornell.
    • Be familiar with what information will be required when you're filling out your financial aid application. The College Board provides an overview of Financial Aid and explains how to complete your forms.
    • Be familiar with the financial aid application deadlines. (Please note that financial aid deadlines may be different than admissions application deadlines.)
    • Cornell requires anyone who is applying for financial aid to submit both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal aid and the CSS Profile determines your eligibility for institutional aid.
    • Remember to work with your parents as you're filling out your financial aid application forms. If you have questions, you could start by checking in with your local CBO or your guidance counselor. You may also contact the Financial Aid office.

Resources Available for First-Generation Students

After arriving on campus, there are many resources available for first-generation college students—both in the College of Engineering and across Cornell University.

Resources in the College of Engineering

  • Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE) provides programs that facilitate the recruitment, development, retention, and success of all members of the engineering community.
    • Ryan Scholars is an academic initiative that provides each scholar with support to succeed as an engineering undergraduate student and beyond. Each year, up to 35 students are invited to become a member of the Ryan Scholars Program through the admissions process.
    • CUES Tutoring provides students with access to tutors for the gateway courses to engineering majors and for major-level courses.
  • Engineering Advising provides a variety of advising services and programs to assist students in achieving their undergraduate academic and personal goals.  
  • Cornell Engineering Career Center offers targeted services and resources for undergraduate and graduate students, and employers. 
  • Engineering Learning Initiatives enhances the learning environment in the College of Engineering by providing opportunities for students to engage in collaborative learning, undergraduate research, and peer tutoring. The program also promotes teaching excellence in the college, administering the college’s Teaching Assistant Development Program and training undergraduates to be collaborative learning facilitators and peer tutors. 
    • Tutors on Call provides two hours of free tutoring each week for undergraduate engineering students and majors.
  • Coaching and Mentoring for Professional and Student Success (COMPASS) is a 2-credit Engineering course where students are mentored by Cornell Engineering Alumni, develop their professional skills, and plan their Cornell experience.

University Resources

  • First Generation and Low Income Student Support (FGLI) student support is intended to promote identity exploration, community, advocacy and empowerment for all students who identify with the first-generation and/or low-income student experience. 
  • First-Generation Student Union (FGSU) is committed to making sure first-generation, low-income students at Cornell University find a true sense of belonging and are able to thrive.
  • Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) is focused on inclusion and achievement across the Cornell campus so students of all backgrounds excel at their academic goals.
  • Learning Strategies Center (LSC) is the central academic support unit for undergraduates at Cornell University. Through program offerings that encourage students to develop effective approaches to mastering the academic rigors of Cornell, the LSC strives to actively engage students in the learning process and support their efforts to become more successful and independent learners.
  • Cornell Health is the fully accredited provider of medical and mental health services for students on Cornell’s Ithaca campus.
  • Tatkon Center is a support and resource center for first-year students that’s staffed by upper-level students who are eager to share their experience and help you make a smooth transition to our campus community.