Amherst Welcomes Record Number of First Generation Students

The class of 2027 has a record number of first generation college students. While administration and staff endeavor to provide them with a variety of resources, students report being underinformed.

Amherst Welcomes Record Number of First Generation Students
The class of 2027 has the highest proportion of first generation college students in Amherst's modern record. Graphic courtesy of Nina Aagaard ’26.

The class of 2027 boasts 19 percent first generation college students, the highest proportion of any incoming Amherst class in modern record. Administrators and staff were eager to welcome them and their peers to campus in late August, but not all first generation students have felt supported during their transition to Amherst, they told The Student.

This increase in first generation college students has been long in the making, said Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Matthew McGann. Strategic outreach is the first step in ensuring equitable access to Amherst, he said — for instance, Amherst was the first institution to partner with QuestBridge, a nonprofit that helps connect first-generation low-income (FLI) high school students with colleges and universities.

The second piece of the strategy is Amherst’s holistic admissions process.

“We deeply think about a student's context, not just what they've achieved, but the context in which they've achieved it, and I think that makes for a more equitable selection process,” McGann said.

“When we can do better reaching students who will be the first generation of their families to graduate from a four year college, I think that represents Amherst better living up to its mission, and I think it makes our community better,” he added.

Growing numbers of first generation students necessitates more resources to aid in the transition to college. The Office of Identity and Cultural Resources hired several assistant directors for the identity-based resource centers last spring, to ensure that they were sufficiently staffed.

As part of that effort, Scarlet Im ’17 was hired as the assistant director of the Class and Access Resource Center (CARC) at the end of March.

Im said that part of her role is to ensure that CARC is visible and accessible to first-year students and their families starting on move-in day. This year, CARC hosted a luncheon in Lewis Sebring for first-generation and/or low-income (FLI) students and their families in Lewis Sebring, as a way to make the families of first generation students feel more involved in the transition to college.

Later during orientation week, Im and the students who work at CARC hosted a retreat for FLI first-years as part of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series as a chance for them to become more acquainted with CARC and to provide a space for them to build community with one another.

However, orientation leader Hannah Kim ’25 did not feel that her training had adequately introduced her to the resources available to first generation students.

“Even just knowing that we had a record percentage of first generation students in this class would have been nice to know,” Kim said. “[Additional training] that highlighted certain resources that first-years can take advantage of would have been helpful in that regard.”

Like Kim, some first generation first-year students said they were unaware of the resources on campus. Brenda Tenorio ’27, who identifies as FLI, does not recall any particular outreach from the college before or during orientation week pertaining to resources for first generation students.

“I feel like if I had a really big problem, I would try to go and find resources on campus, but for most things I would try to figure it out myself,” Tenorio said. “It would be good to know about resources for more of the financial aspects — buying things like laundry detergent.”

Similarly, Mayisa Tasnim ’27 was not made aware of any resources specifically for FLI students during orientation week.

“I feel like I’m kind of discovering them slowly. Like when I explore campus, I’ll see something new, and that’s kind of how I’ve been learning about the different resources on campus,” Tasnim said.

Im hopes that the growing numbers of first generation students at Amherst will lead to a higher degree of importance placed on resources for FLI students among the administration.

“When we were a smaller number, I think oftentimes our advocacy was for self-preservation, and the response from the institution is often from a scarcity mindset,” said Im.

In the future, she hopes that greater numbers of FLI students on campus will allow CARC and other resource centers to enjoy a greater sense of security within the college.