First Generation Students

Who is a first generation college student?

photo of students

You are a first generation college student if neither of your parents has completed a four year university degree. Chico State considers first generation students a valuable part of our campus.

Chico State is a place where students succeed.  We offer world-class opportunities in and outside the classroom. You’ll find an extensive array of student support services, financial aid and scholarship opportunities, plus faculty and staff who are dedicated to your success. Chico State is not only a great campus, but great community where you’ll find a place to belong.

We’re here to help

This website is another tool to help you be successful on campus. Do you have questions about choosing a major or adjusting to college life? Are you worried about not fitting in or meeting your family’s expectations? We hope to provide you with the guidance you need as you transition to university life. If there’s information you can’t find send us an email at  We’re here to help. 

Ready to explore new paths?

Click on the links above for stories of students and alumni just like you.  

Were you a first generation student?

Would you like to share your journey with us?

Paul J. Zingg

photo of Paul ZinggCSU, Chico President

On behalf of California State University, Chico I am pleased to invite you to explore what our campus has to offer. I hope that you will consider making Chico State a key part of your academic plans and future endeavors. First-generation students make indispensable contributions to our campus community and we value each one. I know, because I also was the first in my family to attend college.

In these pages you’ll find stories of first-generation students just like you. They come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, but they share an important characteristic: they have thrived at Chico State.

Just as Terri, Samantha and Malcolm have flourished here, I believe all first-generation students possess the same capacity for achievement. Chico State is dedicated to student success. We believe in your ability to reach your goals. Chico State’s motto is “Today decides Tomorrow” and we hope that the information you find in these pages will help with the decisions you make tomorrow. We hope that one of them is to choose Chico State!

Terri Snow

photo of Terri SnowCorning, CA
Class of 2015

What helped make my transition from community college to Chico State easy was how friendly professors and peers were. It’s a very open campus and just about everyone is friendly. I figured professors might be a little tougher, and the course work more intense. I thought I would have no time for socializing. I am glad to say my experience has been quite the opposite. Professors are very friendly and easy to approach, the work load is not impossible to keep up with.

Samantha Thao

photo of Samantha ThaoOroville, CA
Class of 2015

Being the first to attend college in my family has created a drive and hunger for success in me. I continue to reach for my dreams because my parents have shown me what hard work is and how it's possible to make something out of nothing. I look forward to taking on challenges in the future, such as pursing internships without the fear of rejection. As far as academics go, I want to graduate with a GPA of 3.5 or better. I know it will only get more challenging as I continue working to get my degree, but it will surely be satisfying when I get there.

Cecilia Fernández

Celicia FernandezSalinas, CA
Class of 2013

I aspire to still do so much in the future. I’ve graduated with two degrees and right now I’m going through the law school admissions process and working for a criminal defense attorney.  I hope to receive my Juris Doctor in the next few years.  While studying law, I hope to study abroad one more time. Studying abroad was the most memorable experience I had while a student at Chico State, I urge everyone to look into it and expand their horizons.  In high school my most coveted dream was to visit Europe and not only did I visit, I lived there during my third year of college. It was my year abroad that I realized how passionate I was about the law. I interned in Madrid for an immigration law firm and it changed my life forever.  CSU Chico opened so many doors for me and I will be forever grateful for the memories and the opportunities given during my undergraduate career.

Paul Villegas

Paul VillegasOakland, CA
Class of 1992

A challenge I faced was putting in the necessary study time in order to be successful. You assume you have an abundance of free time because no one is really policing your efforts. When I connected with some key faculty and staff, they helped me manage my time and I developed the work ethic necessary to advance in my discipline. My advice to the next group of first generation students coming to campus is to take advantage of the resources available, like tutoring, counseling and professional development.  If you put in the study time and hard work, you will reap the rewards in the future.

Malcolm J. McLemore

photo of Malcolm J. McLemoreSeattle, Washington
Class of 2008

My best piece of advice is that life always comes down to choices and chances. I’m a person that stopped liking school in the 5th grade. I went to school because I had to go to school. In my sophomore year of high school everyone pretty much gave up on me. I was in trouble a lot and no one knew what to do with me. My mom was at her wits end. She gave me an ultimatum. I needed to make a decision whether to drop out of high school and get a job or continue my education. That was a significant point in my life. I decided the future depended on my choices. I graduated high school, I graduated college and I got my master’s degree and I tell others, I’m the guy who stopped liking school in the fifth grade!  I realized that making positive choices today is what is going to open up chances for me in the future.

Rocky Chavez

Rocky ChavezCalifornia State Assemblyman, 76th District
Class of 1973

My best piece of advice is to work hard, persevere. It’s worth it. Make sure your friends have the same goals as you. My wrestling coaches were instrumental to my success as a first generation college student because they kept me focused on obtaining my goals. They taught me to not let my ego take over and they kept me grounded. Chico State was critical to my success. When I went to Chico State, I was somewhat lost. At Chico State, I was able to refocus and reflect. Chico State healed me. I achieved my Bachelors of Arts in English, and Chico State allowed me to go into a career I never thought I would go into.