The formal definition of a first-generation college student is a student whose parents did not complete a four-year college degree. At Brown, we think of it more as any student who may self-identify as not having prior exposure to or knowledge of navigating higher institutions such as Brown and may need additional resources. For example, if a parent attended a four-year college in a different educational system outside of the United States; if a student has only had close contact to people with minimal college experience; if a student and/or parent feel that they are unfamiliar with college culture at Brown-- these are diverse ways in which students might identify with the first-generation identity.
Being first-gen may also have greater saliency for some students more than others and at different phases in their education -- from a first-year undergraduate through the final stages of doctoral or medical education. First-gens are diverse in myriad ways and span socio-economic classes, international, domestic, religions, races and ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc. Our program, student organization, and community do not require students to share their familial background or their reasons for joining the community.