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First at WSU

First at WSU

Washington State University is a First-gen Forward Institution, recognized for its dedication to serving first‑generation college students. WSU joins the inaugural cohort of 80 universities and colleges across the nation selected by the Center for First‑Generation Student Success, an initiative of the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and The Suder Foundation.

First Gen Voices

First at WSU is collecting narratives about the first-generation student experience. It is our hope that these personal narratives resonate with other first-generation college students and help affirm that they are not alone—but that they are a part of a much larger community of first-generation students at WSU. It is also our hope that these essays raise awareness and ongoing dialogue about first-generation students. These narratives will be displayed in our First Gen Student Center located in CUB 410 and be featured on our website.

Choose questions that resonate most with your story and lived experience. 

Learn more about our First Gen Cougs

Percentage of first-generation students at WSU.


First-gen Students at WSU - Overall 

  • Everett: 39.2%
  • Global: 30.7%
  • Pullman: 28.8%
  • Spokane: 29.6%
  • Tri-Cities: 46%
  • Vancouver: 42.5%

31.5% of WSU students (all campuses, Fall 2022 reports)

56% is the National Average 

How Faculty and Staff can support first-gen Cougs:

Understand what “first gen” means.

We define first-gen students as those whose parents or guardians have not earned a bachelor’s degree. Review the First Forward Fact sheets to learn more about demographics of first-gen students, utilization of services and post-education outcomes.

Share if you were a first-gen student.

Students may feel more comfortable talking to you, knowing that you have been in a similar situation. Mention your first-gen status in your email signature, in your syllabus, or post it in your office. 

Review your course and office materials.

Look for acronyms, institutional jargon, or “short cuts” when describing the physical surrounding or buildings, requirements, or other university administrative processes. Phrases and words that are familiar to us may be particularly confusing for our first-gen students. Examples of WSU’s terminology can be found here.

Be clear and consistent with expectations.

Share the expected amount of time and effort required to do well and remind students of deadlines throughout the semester. For individual assignments and tasks, describe any consequences which may occur if expectations are not met.

Promote your office hours and accommodate student appointments.

Clearly state the ways students can use office hours, such as discussing assignment instructions, reviewing grades, or prepping for an exam. Frequent invitations to use your office hours or request time help normalize the use of these services.

Familiarize yourself with campus resources and colleagues.

Students may not be aware of resources like tutoring, health services, counseling, libraries, computer labs, etc. Remind students that utilizing these resources is part of the college experience. Referring students to a specific contact person increases their chances of reaching out.

Encourage students to get involved.

Student organizations, campus recreation, or other extra-curricular activities may help them build a social support network.

Know the signs of a student in distress and how to respond.

Faculty and staff are often able to recognize when a student is struggling, but it can be hard to know what to say or do. Our campus-specific ““Helping Students In Distress”” guides outline common scenarios and how to respond, refer, and report when needed.