How do post-secondary schools support first-generation students?

Schools in Ontario, like Queen’s University, offer first-generation students grants to help them pay for university or college.

What is a first-generation student?

First-generation students are learners whose parents never went to post-secondary school. They often face both financial and non-financial barriers to accessing higher education.

Parents who did not attend university or college tend to earn less than families with undergraduate or graduate degrees. They might have fewer resources to help their children pay for school, so first-generation students often have to find work or take out more loans to cover tuition and other educational costs. 

Because parents of first-generation students never had the experience of going to college or university, they can be less equipped to help them prepare for school. This can make it difficult for first-generation students to get informed advice and support about higher education. 

Newcomers whose parents went to school in their home country also face these struggles and have to figure out many things about applying for and preparing for school without their parents. 

How does the Ontario government support first-generation students?

First-generation students are under-represented in post-secondary schools because of the barriers they face. 

To encourage and support first-generation students to go to university or college, the government offers financial assistance for first-generation students through the schools they get accepted to. 

The Ontario First Generation Bursary awards eligible students between $1,000 to $3,500. You don’t have to apply for OSAP to be considered for this bursary. You can use your school’s First Generation Bursary application to apply.

To be eligible for the bursary, you must:

  • Attend a publicly-assisted college or university in Ontario
  • Have parents who never studied at post-secondary schools anywhere in the world
  • Be enrolled in a first-entry undergraduate program
  • Not already have a post-secondary degree, diploma or certificate
  • Not be receiving assistance through the Second Career program
  • Meet the Canadian citizenship and Ontario residency requirements for OSAP
  • Meet the financial need and any other criteria defined by their school

What supports are available through Queen’s University's First-Generation Student Admission Pathway?

At Queen’s, the First-Generation Student Admission Pathway offers comprehensive support for students navigating post-secondary education.

Through the First-Generation Admission Pathway, if you’re eligible, you can receive:

  • General application advice (e.g. assistance with supplementary essays)
  • Academic and career advising
  • Financial planning (e.g. scholarships and bursaries)
  • Workshops and sessions
  • One-on-one meetings with an admissions representative
  • Campus visits
  • Mentorship opportunities and more!

In addition, the program offers a team of equity ambassadors. Equity ambassadors are a diverse group of trained undergraduate Queen's students who provide first-hand experience to guide prospective applicants and offer support. First-generation students can meet with the equity ambassadors at regular webinars, drop-in Zoom sessions, or workshops hosted by Queen’s community partners.

To qualify for the pathway, you must be a prospective first-generation student and be part of one of the community organizations partnered with Queen’s University. For a complete list of partners and to learn more, you can contact Queen’s University by email to speak with a first-generation recruitment representative. 

Presented by: Queen’s University