Olivia Taylor

Being the First in your Family to go to University

Being the first in your family to apply to University can feel exciting and scary all wrapped up in one. It is natural to feel apprehensive when you are doing something that is different to what your family has done before. 

I was the first in my family to go to University – my Mum didn’t finish any formal schooling and my Dad only completed his GCSEs. So when I applied to the University of Cambridge I felt many things and there where a few worries I had. 

We are going to address some of these worries that I and others who are the first in their family sometimes feel. 

“I won’t fit in”/”There won’t be anyone else like me at Univeristy”

When you are the first in your family to go to University it can feel you will be the only person in your University from your town or like everyone else will have parents who went to University. 

Firstly, there will be people you fit in with at University (I promise!). There will be others from similar backgrounds, with similar experiences and from a similar place to your. 

Secondly, you will be able to make friends with people from all walks of life! There will be people who enjoy the same activities, passions and interests as you who can become your lifelong friends. 

First Generation University

“I can’t afford University” 

When you are applying to University it is common to worry about finances. However, the government provides two loans to students – tuition loan and a maintenance loan. 

The tuition loan pays the money to the University that is required for you to study there. The maintenance loans goes straight into your bank account to help you pay for things like accomodation and food. Maintenance loans are “means tested” which means that they are based on parental income – the higher your parental income, the less maintenance loan you can take out. 

Since these are loans they do have a repayment policy but this is not anything to worry about. You pay back 9% of whatever you earn over £25,000 per year and what is left over after 30 years gets wiped. That’s to say if you earn £24,999.99 in a year – you have to repay nothing. I you earnt, say, £25,100 – you would repay £9. 

There are only other ways to get funds including bursaries, scholarships and part time work. There are also hardship funds if you find yourself in financial hardship while at University. 

Worries about money should not stop anyone going to Univeristy. 

“I’m not smart enough to go to University”

There are many different types of courses, routes and Universities that cater to all types of learning styles, interests and abilities. If going to University is something you would like to do, there are many ways to make that happened. Also, a lot of “intelligence” is more linked to working hard and knowing the best techniques rather than any inbuilt talent. 

If you think you aren’t able to go to University because your secondary school qualifications aren’t as good as you would like, a lot of Universities offer “foundation” courses which require lower grads and help you get up to the level needed at University. 

You're Smart Enough for University

Being the first in your family to go to University can be scary and exciting – all in one. It can create some worries of the unknown but if going to University is something you want to do, you can do it. We believe in you.