First-Generation Students

Seize Your Superpower

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First-generation students embark on the college journey with unique access to endless possibilities. During this process, it is very normal to encounter new challenges; whether you miss home, yearn to feel “a sense of belonging,” or doubt your abilities, you are not alone. Resources are available to help you achieve your goals.

We believe in the power of first-generation students to transform the world of work. Use this page to launch your career into uncharted territory and move forward with support from Career Services.



Key Campus Resources @ UCSB

Gain Experience: First-Generation Students

For complete information on internships, student jobs, research opportunities, extracurriculars, and more, review our starter tips to Gain Experience in all careers as well as the specialized tips on this page.


In addition to pursuing academic excellence, it is important to gain experience in order to build your qualifications. Employers seek candidates who have experience outside of the classroom that relate to your area of interest.

As you build your career at UCSB, place yourself in the environments that interest you. Through experiential opportunities, you can explore whether or not you enjoy the work and challenge the initial impressions you might have about careers. This will allow you to continue improving your resume and complement your academic degree.

For a useful jump start, we recommend that you explore campus organizations (see our Extracurriculars page) and find on-campus opportunities (see our Student Jobs page) to become involved and connected. Whether you plan to apply for a job or graduate school in the future, your enthusiasm will shine through in your interview and showcase the transferable skills that you gain from these extracurricular activities.


Types of Experience

Click below for various experiential opportunities to consider as a first-generation student.

According to the 2018 NACE Student Survey, only 46% of undergraduate first-generation seniors participated in an internship, as compared to 53% of undergraduate non-first-generation seniors. The survey also indicated that 48% of first-generation students participated in an unpaid internship in contrast to 43% for non-first-generation students.

Though unpaid, any internship opportunity can be valuable as you apply concepts and knowledge into a practical, real-world setting. In certain fields such as Clinical Healthcare, Psychology, and Nonprofits, internships tend to be unpaid but remain one of the few ways to obtain related experience, especially if you intend to pursue graduate school. Certain career paths also offer targeted internship programs, such as the NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) for student affairs in higher education, FirstGen Fellows program for social justice, and Fortis Fellowship for business.

For those who feel they can not afford to take on an unpaid internship, there are numerous ways to find the balance between earning money to pay the bills and still gain relevant experience specific to the industry you wish to break into. Be sure to check out the Internship Scholarship Program, which Career Services offers to support students who are participating in unpaid internships.


Learn More

Review our Internships page for general information to consider about internship opportunities.

It is often difficult for first-generation students to picture themselves studying abroad due to the perceived expenses of the program. However, some study abroad programs have comparable costs to a regular quarter at UCSB, or others cost less than attending UCSB. In order to offset study abroad costs, check out various scholarships available for first-generation students to study abroad Two scholarships to consider applying for include the Fund for Education Abroad and the University Study Abroad Consortium.

Remember that studying abroad can be an valuable experience to leverage with employers. For example, you can benefit from leveraging the multicultural skills that you gain from immersing yourself abroad. The 2018 NACE Student Survey also indicates that study abroad experiences had the greatest impact for first-generation students in regards to how they perceived their competency in global and cultural fluency, as well as critical thinking.


Learn More

Visit our Extracurriculars page for more tips about study abroad programs.

Engage with UCSB faculty by attending office hours and participating in research through the Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP). Developing relationships with faculty mentors can enhance your academic success and provide you with mentorship throughout your time at UCSB. If you are considering graduate school in the future, or you would like to work on research projects related to your career interests, start meeting with professors and graduate students early and regularly to learn about potential opportunities to partake in. 


Learn More

See our Research page to learn about research opportunities in greater depth.

First in the Family: Your College Years provides advice for attending college from the perspective of first-generation students from various backgrounds. They speak about what helped them successfully transition into college and stay on track to graduate. In addition, there is an eBook version in which first-generation students offer their guidance and provide practical tips regarding how to get where you want to go.

American Needs You is a professional organization that fights for economic mobility for ambitious, first-generation college students. They provide holistic mentorship and career development during a two-year program, featuring locations across the country.