First-Gen Students

As a First-Gen Forward Institution, Purdue University Northwest celebrates and supports our first-generation students, connecting them with the resources they need to thrive.

A PNW student poses outdoors

Being the First in Your Family to Graduate College…That’s Powering Onward

What does it mean to be a first-gen student? First-generation students are defined as students who come from families where their parents or guardians did not complete a four-year college degree.

But first-gen students are more than that. You’re trailblazers. Pioneers. An inspiration to us all.

You can also face doubts, fears and financial challenges as you adjust to life at college.

We’re Here to Help

Logo: Proudly First Gen PNWOur goal is to help PNW’s first-gen students develop relationships with faculty, staff and other offices on campus to drastically improve your quality of life—and your ability to graduate with a degree.

If you are interested in engaging with the PNW first-gen community, learning more about what it means to be first gen or simply sharing your experience, please reach out to

As a first-generation college student myself, I know the importance of mentorships, connections and belonging at the university.

Ronnell DuBose, Executive Director for Diversity, Inclusivity, and Belonging

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First Scholars logo. Text: First Scholars Elevate Potential with colored dots rising from the text in a wave.

A First Scholars Institution

PNW has been recognized by the Center for First-generation Student Success for its sustained commitment to support first-generation students.

See Our First-Gen Support

A student in a black TRIO t-shirt sits and leans on a table. They are holding a blue pencil and there is paper on the table.

TRIO & Educational Opportunity Programs

PNW has several programs to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities as they progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.

See Our TRIO and Educational Opportunity Programs

Vanessa Del Real
As a minority and first-generation student there were so many support services to take advantage of and so many people I could connect with and relate to.

Graphic: over 56% first-generation undergraduate students

First-Gen Student Resources

Whether it’s choosing the right classes for your major, getting support from our counseling center or assistance in meeting your basic needs, our student, campus and community resources can help you thrive.

See All Student Resources

Campus and Community Resources

TRIO & Educational Opportunity Programs
PNW has programs to serve first-generation students as they progress from middle school to post-graduate study.

Explore PNW Scholarships
PNW offers a range of scholarships to help students pay for college. The best part? Scholarships don’t need to be repaid!

Student Academic Support
All PNW students have access to free academic support services, including tutoring and supplemental instruction.

Inclusive and Welcoming PNW
At PNW, you will find space to be your truest self. We offer a culture of inclusivity, equitable treatment and welcoming opportunities for all.

Keep an open mind and don’t shut yourself in... It was really tough for me to ask for help. But if I never allowed myself to do that, then I wouldn’t be in the position I am now.

Celebrating Your Success

A proud PNW tradition is honoring our first-gen graduates with silver cords as they graduate at Commencement! The special cords are a visible symbol of your commitment, hard work and perseverance.

PNW first-gen students with silver cords at commencement.
A first-generation PNW student showing off a silver cord at commencement
A first-generation PNW student showing off a silver cord at commencement
A first-generation PNW student showing off a silver cord at commencement
PNW first-gen students with silver cords at commencement.
A first-generation PNW student showing off a silver cord at commencement
Logo: First Generation College Scholar Celebration. Gold logo on a black background

First-Generation College Scholar Celebration

Inspiring the next generation. That’s Powering Onward.

Relive the fun from our First-Generation College Scholar Celebration!

See photos of the Celebrations