Being first is almost always a big deal, but being the first in your family to attend college is huge. Here's a quick overview of what First Cats (what the University of Arizona calls first-generation Wildcats) and their families can expect and how to get started – plus advice and inspiration from first-generation Wildcats who've thrived at Arizona.
Who are Arizona's First Cats? Just one of the largest, most diverse communities on campus, making up nearly 40% of the university's student population. The First Cats program hosts campus-wide events and opportunities open to all first-generation college students, faculty, staff, family members, and supporters. Hundreds of student clubs and organizations help First Cats make friends and connections that will last a lifetime.
Some students start out knowing exactly what they want to study, while others decide after exploring several options – it's all good. If you haven't already, scroll through some of Arizona's 300+ programs. Then, schedule a chat with an admissions counselor who can help you match your dreams and goals to the right academic pathway.
New students discover there's also a lot to learn outside of the classroom, from mastering dorm life to experiencing Arizona's rich traditions. Of course, orientation is a great time for First Cats and their families to get a feel for student life. Until then, check out this guide to everything Arizona.
Through the Thrive Center, first- and second-year Wildcats can be paired with peer mentors – student coaches who understand the challenges of the new because they're blazing trails too. The TRiO program furnishes first-gen students with tutors, academic and financial aid planning, and more all the way through graduation. In addition to programs, many Arizona faculty and staff were the first in their families to attend college and are eager to help you succeed.
You'll be experiencing lots of firsts, and paying for college is one of them. Most Wildcats receive some form of financial aid – nine out of ten, as a matter of fact. Once admitted, First Cats gain access to Scholarship Universe; Arizona's very own scholarship matching tool. There are numerous awards for first-generation, first-year, and transfer students, so don't miss out. Learn more about scholarships and other forms of financial aid.
Applying is the next step on your journey of firsts, and it's simple, but that does not mean you shouldn't have questions. Visit arizona.edu/admissions to learn when to apply, what's required (and what's not), and what information you'll need handy when you do.
It won't take long to find out, usually 2–3 weeks. Then, after a thorough and vigorous happy dance, head to the virtual Next Steps Center. It's where you'll find everything important, from setting up your student NetID and CatMail to dates and deadlines. Enroll in New Student Orientation, and you have taken the first steps to becoming a Wildcat for life!
“Learn about the available resources on campus, especially for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) first-generation students, as there are hidden gems designed to help make you more comfortable in a completely new environment.” – Justin Billy (Navajo/Diné), Microbiology
"It's really important for first-generation students to have a community. We're kind of just doing something that nobody really in our families have ever done before. The University of Arizona has definitely supported me through this life journey. " – Elizabeth Aja, Psychology
“Try to make as many connections as possible with your advisors, professors, and the people in your classes. I feel like a lot of first-generation students are fearful they aren't in the right place or won't fit in. We all feel the same way. Don't be afraid to reach out early for help.” – Jason Dayee, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
Firsts can be exhilarating, challenging and daunting. We’re here to answer your questions and welcome your family to the Wildcat family!
Visit First Cats to find programs and services for first-gen Wildcats.
Explore how the University of Arizona supports families from application to acceptance. Find information for parents and families here.
Ready to become a Wildcat Today?