• Welcome to Our Group

    We are passionate about creating a welcoming space for first-generation and/or low-income students at the University of Virginia. We conducted two focus groups with seven students to learn more about the core issues for FGLI students here. This is our team!

    Chi Ho

    Class of 2022

    From Pennsylvania, Chi is interested in pursuing a double majoring in Global Development Studies in the College of A&S and Public Policy and Leadership in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She served as a previous social chair of IRO, a volunteer through VISAS, and a member of the Echols community. Outside of classes she does research with Professor Rupa Valdez in the Public Health Sciences department within the School of Medicine. She is honored to be a part of this project and take part in what she believes to be a beginning of a new era for U.Va. in terms of its reception of FGLI students like herself. She also wants to acknowledge that this has been a challenging but important exploration of her own FGLI identity and wishes to one day help other students more confidently explore theirs.

    Chandler Williams

    Class of 2022

    From Virginia, Chandler is interested in double majoring in Global Studies and Economics in the College of Arts and Science. On grounds, Chandler is involved with the founding of a new organization, One for the World at UVA, which strives to educate students and young professionals about global extreme poverty and encourages students to join the movement for effective altruistic giving. She also volunteers with CLASS through Madison House. Chandler is grateful to have the opportunity to work on Project First Gen and meet so many other FGLI students at UVA. She saw the opportunity to work on Project First Gen as a way to explore her own identity as FGLI while positively impacting the experiences of other FGLI students through research into the ways in which the University supports and fails students in need.

    Quentin Milligan

    Class of 2021

    Quentin is a Low-Income student from South Carolina. He majors in Leadership & Public Policy in the Batten School. He is involved in Student Council, Salsa Club, Spikeball Club, Reformed University Fellowship, and much more! Quentin believes that the most powerful change comes when those affected are involved in the process. He joined the project because speaking to FGLI students is the only way to solve FGLI issues, and he wants to make the University experience better for those who come after him.

    Priscilla Boateng

    Class of 2021

    Priscilla is a Ghanaian American FGLI student who transferred to the University of Virginia her second year from community college. She is majoring in Foreign affairs and on a Pre-Health track. She writes for the Cavalier daily, is a member of Chi Alpha, and has a part time job as pharmacy technician. She is glad to have had the opportunity to participate in Project First Generation as being FGLI has had some negative impacts on her UVA experience that she hopes other won't have to experience because of this project.


    Our Roles

    Over the two focus groups we conducted, we alternated roles between serving as facilitators, field captains, and notetakers. Facilitators would lead the conversation by asking key questions, receiving and responding to the responses of participants, and asking additional questions when clarification was needed. Field captains had the responsibility of setting up the room, welcoming participants before the focus group began, and steering the discussion to include all participants. Notetakers documented the focus group by recording the responses of participants to each area we explored.

  • Areas We Explored

    Social Inclusion | Financial Hardship | Student Self-Governance

    Social Inclusion

    What is the social climate like for FGLI students at UVA and how does this differ amongst the FGLI community?

    We asked our participants two main questions about their social experience at the University:

    • How has your experience as a first-generation and/or low-income student affected your relationships with peers and your social integration into the UVA community?
    • As you think about your community at UVA and your community at home, are there any major differences?

    Financial Hardship

    How do finances affect the way FGLI students navigate life at the University and beyond?

    We asked our participants three guiding questions about their financial experiences:

    • What are some of the ways financial concerns or stress arise for you if they do?


    • If you have gotten a job since coming to UVA, what kind of jobs have you had and how did you find them?
    • If you’ve worked under federal work study, what was your experience in finding eligible opportunities?

    Student Self-Governance

    What are FGLI students' attitudes towards UVA's emphasis on student self-governance and how does this affect their choice to participate in certain extracurriculars?

    • If you’ve been involved in clubs or organizations ground since arriving at UVA, how did you choose what to get involved with?
    • Many clubs and organizations use competitive application processes. How do you think this shapes involvement among first-generation or low-income students?
    • If you aren’t currently, or have never been, involved in any clubs or organizations, what led to that decision? Did you feel like you couldn’t join certain clubs/ activities because of fees?


  • Demographics within our focus groups


    Students by class

    1 first year

    1 second year

    1 third year

    4 fourth years


    Students by school

    4 College of Arts and Sciences

    1 School of Engineering

    1 School of Nursing

    1 McIntire School of Commerce


    Students by home

    3 out-of-state

    3 in-state

    1 international

  • Common Themes

    These themes emerged as participants responded to our core questions.

    Going out to eat causing isolation

    Costly activities can isolate FGLI students from their peers.

    One of the main common struggles that many participants in our focus groups revealed was their financial capability restricting their ability to partake in common social practices such as going out to restaurants for food. How individuals dealt with this varied from simply telling friends they couldn't eat out due to money constraints, working side jobs to supply money specifically for eating out, claiming to be busy instead of joining friends eating out, or simply hanging out with other individuals who have similar spending habits. It is notable that these "other individuals" weren't necessarily FGLI, either, although most tended to be. Some participants attributed cultural differences in financial spending habits.

    The LI in FGLI

    ​Low-income status is more threatening to FGLI students than their status as first-generation.

    It seems as though students had less problems in relation to their first generation status than to their low income status. The organization and the lack of knowledge in relation to upper education did not cause them to feel a sense of isolation as much as their low-income status did. For UVA specifically this may be due to the kind of students that usually are admitted to the university. The organizational aspects of college most likely did not effect them because they already had the capability and the drive to navigate those aspects of education as we can see from their academic rigor. As compared to the low income status that many students didn't fully realize until they were admitted to UVA which must have came to more of a shock to them in regards to how to navigate UVA and interact with other students when finances came in the way.

    Shift in identity upon arrival at the University

    Many participants realized and aligned with the FGLI identity after spending some time at the University.

    Participants in both focus groups reflected on the way in which their identity as First Generation and/or Low Income students became clear once they grew familiar with UVA and situated themselves in relationship to their peers. A majority of participants remarked that they did not consider themselves to be FGLI before matriculating to the University because their communities at home, including friends, family, and high school peers, were similar in socioeconomic status and level of achievement, so there was little that led them to identify differently. Upon arrival at UVA, they intermingled with other students from a wider variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and realized that "FGLI" was an identity to which they could relate.


    Levels of knowledge about the FGLI identity varied amongst participants before they arrived at UVA. Some remarked that they did not have knowledge of "First Generation" and/or "Low Income" existing as important identities. On the other end of the spectrum, some participants were aware that the FGLI identity exist, but actively tried to avoid self-categorization as FGLI for some time. Students would do this by overspending on activities to appear to fit in with their peers or being hesistant to disclose certain information about their background in order to avoid distinguishing themselves as FGLI. Some students, however, were more aware and accepting of their FGLI identity.

    Becoming confident in FGLI

    Upperclassmen are generally more comfortable navigating the University and sharing their experiences.

    One trend we found was greater comfortability in acknowledging FGLI identity as students became upperclassmen. Students not only felt more confident asking for fee waivers but also seeking and taking advantage of resources available at the University.

    This trend first appeared to us as we noticed that our 4th year participants were more vocal in sharing their experiences in depth and detail. They were also proactive in providing advice and recommendations to younger participants.


    One upperclassman participant shared a story that exemplified great confidence in their FGLI identity. This individual was comfortable with their identity as FGLI identity before matriculating to UVA, but suffered financially when their insurance became an issue with financial aid. This student was extremely proactive in reaching out to a dean and explicitly asking for help with uncertainty that the dean would be helpful and responsive to the student's needs. It shocked us that this participant had so much confidence to reach out and share their private financial conflicts with the dean, and we were pleased to hear that the student received great help and mentorship from the dean.

    Similar but different

    FGLI students share a common identity but recognize that they all experience the University in many different ways

    How students perceive the diversity as the University is greatly influenced by the diversity experienced back at home.The frequency in how often one thinks about their FGLI identity is impacted by who students interact with in their daily lives. Those who interact with peers who share similar spending habits were less likely to think about their FGLI identity regularly. Multiple participants indicated that most of their close friends were just as unlikely to participate in costly activities as them.

    Participants remarked that their and their close friends' hesitance to participate in costly activities manifested in ways such as taking alternative routes of transportation to avoid splitting the cost of a Rideshare or deciding not to attend certain events with costly cover charges or ticket prices.

    UVA's outreach for FGLI students has increased over time

    Upperclassmen noted that the opportunities available for the FGLI community have become more obvious in the past years

    Certain resources, such as Hoos First, AccessUVA Newsletter, and other outreach branches have increased their presence over the past couple years. The appointment of President Jim Ryan, himself a first generation college student, has also raised the profile of the community at UVA.

  • Suggestions for the University

    The following are some concrete areas for the University to focus open. In addition to these institutional suggestions, we also offer some potential topics to be explored further in the FGLI community:

    Intersectionality, Community Support, School Cultural Norms, Mental Health 

    Making the location of SFS services more accessible both in terms of location and hours would greatly decrease the financial stress of students related to financial aid.

    Holding clubs and CIOs more accountable for inclusion efforts (ex: ensuring fee waivers are visible and anonymous) will allow FGLI students to participate in student self-governance to a greater degree.


    Ensuring transparency and support in policy changes (ex: non-custodial waivers) will give FGLI students more peace of mind.

  • Resources for UVA Students

    Tips for FGLI Students from FGLI students

    • CSS fee waivers are usually available in November.
    • There are scholarships available for those experiencing an inability to pay for insurance.
    • Most clubs have fee waivers available upon request to cover the cost of dues.
    • Sororities and Fraternities have scholarships for rushing (reimbursement scholarship, still need to have money upfront)
    • Off-grounds housing often involves many upfront costs (such as security deposits, furniture, utility set-up fees); this must be considered when budgeting a SFS refund.
    • Loans are available when paying for unexpected costs such as housing down deposits and textbooks (ex. SFS's Lee Loan)

    Hoos First

    UVA's Office of the Dean of Students

    The University's administrative arm that promotes events for First Generation students.


    Student-Run Organization

    A group of 100+ students identifying as FGLI who just gather together for fun social events! Join the email list and/or groupme by emailing!


    Not Rich at UVA

    Student Council

    Student Council is working on a comprehensive resource guide for FGLI students at UVA! Stay posted for updates here.