Carolina firsts Supporting our first-generation students

Opening doors

Thousands of Tar Heels are the first in their families to attend college. We proudly call them "Carolina Firsts," and they are an integral part of our University, contributing to our vibrant campus community.

Through our Carolina Firsts program, these students are paired with faculty and staff advocates who were also first-generation students and connected with academic and social support programs to help them throughout their college experience.

  • Nearly 20%of all undergraduates are first-generation college students
  • 1,053students in the current first-year class are the first in their family to go to college
  • 755Carolina Firsts in the graduating class of 2020

Carolina is a “First-Gen Forward Advisory” institution and is committed to supporting first-generation students. The designation from the Center for First-Generation Student Success recognizes colleges and universities that are improving the experiences and advancing the outcomes of first-generation undergraduate and graduate students.

Carolina was among only nine institutions given this designation last year and is tapped to serve in a leadership capacity for First-Gen Forward because of the University’s long-standing commitment to all first-generation students at UNC-Chapel Hill and an ability to serve as a mentor to other selected institutions.

The Bell Tower.

Being the first in my family to try going to college, or to go to Carolina feels like trailblazing, almost. It’s like a leap in a completely different direction from most of the rest of my family

Izzie Estes, a Carolina First

Izzie Estes

Gillings was the only school that sent me a handwritten postcard congratulating me on my acceptance. As a first-gen student, that personalization and acknowledgment meant so much to me at the time. I felt seen, understood and appreciated.

Ekiuwa Imariagbe, graduate student and Carolina Grad Student F1RST

Carolina Firsts resources

  • Alpha Alpha Alpha established in 2018

    Tri Alpha Honors Society

    A new campus chapter of the Tri Alpha Honors Society recognizes and celebrates the academic achievements of first-generation undergraduate students, graduate students and even staff and faculty members who were the first in their families to attend college.

  • Close up of student hands on laptops and notepads

    Lookout Scholars

    The Lookout Scholars Program offers incoming first-generation students a rich cohort experience designed to help them become citizen leaders during their four years at Carolina.

  • Maria Duran, Leslie Adams and Jennifer Rangel

    Grad Student F1rsts

    F1RSTS provides resources and community for first-generation graduate students. The initiative focuses on navigating academic culture as a graduate-level scholar and thriving as an advanced student.

Click on a story below to meet one of our Carolina Firsts