GenU1 -- A First-Generation Student Forum

A platform for first-generation students to share their experience and journey towards higher-education.

Photo of Amira Aboudallah
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  • Education
  • Technology

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

First-generation students face more obstacles compared to their peers. First-generation students are more likely to come from a low-income household, less likely to ask mentors for help, and can feel socially isolated when it comes to facing higher-education. Only 11% of low-income first-generation students will have a college degree within six years of enrolling according to a Pell Institute study. Education should be accessible to everyone.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

By having a forum based website like GenU1, we can bring a community with students just like one another. First-generation students can find it socially isolating when their peers around them already know the "unsaid" rules of the journey to higher education. By creating a forum-based platform, first-generation students can connect with one another on a personal level, by asking questions that they are too afraid to ask in real life. First-generation students need help beyond a Google search. It takes mentorship and a community to garner a newfound confidence in first-generation students that they might not be able to find at home. Guidance counselors, especially in low-income schools, have more students to look after, stripping students of individualized time. With GenU1, we can act as a safety net to catch mistakes that first-gen's are making during their application process. First-gen's can also benefit from GenU1 by looking at the resource page to find ALL possible scholarships, programs, test-prep, etc to aid their process. First-generation students deserve an equal opportunity for higher education and with GenU1, we can level the playing field to our best ability.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

The week I was supposed to fly out to Shanghai, for my dream university, I was struck with a terrible reality I could not go. As a first-generation student, I made many mistakes during my application process that went unnoticed, causing me to take an involuntary gap year. A book I have been reading called "The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students" by Anthony Abraham Jack talked about how poorer students (typically first-generation) are less likely to make connections to higher authority. I was afraid of asking too many questions and connecting to my counselors, I ended up playing a guessing game. I did end up at my dream university, committed to it, and thought "Loans will cover this right?" Little did I know, that with my family's poor credit, it would be impossible to get a loan. I want to make sure other students don't make the same mistakes I made.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

A lot of first-generation students don't even know they are first-generation students. Let's even the playing field for college applications and make education accessible to everyone. GenU1 lets students like each other have a chance to ask questions and tell their stories. Awareness and encouragement is one of the key factors for increasing the statistic of students pursuing higher education. Let's talk.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

A first-generation student from Las Vegas, Nevada (a state ranked last in education) has no idea where to start in the college application process. All they know is: 1) They want to go to college. The environment around them is clear, in the hospitality run city, that education is not a priority. Not knowing where to turn, this student can search up "first-generation students" and GenU1 is the first link. Within GenU1, they notice a forum with questions they were asking themselves. In turn, they begin their application process, encouraged by students like them, and begin to ask questions on their own. One of the questions they ask is: How do I pay for college? A moderator and several other first-generation students answer with several resources linked on GenU1's website, linked to FAFSA, Questbridge, and other scholarships. Students like them get accepted to colleges and graduate.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

There are many first-generation resources out there, however, none of them are made by first-generation students and none of them have a forum for students to communicate with one another. CollegeConfidential is a popular forum website, however, most students who go on the website are self-selected students who typically know the process of college applications. First-generation students are less likely to go on forums like CC, due the fact that they are simply unaware of forums solely for college. GenU1 caters to the niche of first-generation students with an inviting community, who relate.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Since I have just started this month, I have gone through the stage of inviting schools around the Vegas valley to join yet, due to polishing up the website and making operations smoother. I plan to make a difference beyond Las Vegas and go nationally. I want to have several moderators that can serve as mentors, that have already gone through the process of college applications and transitioned into college life. I want first-generation students to be aware of resources available to them such as scholarships, fly-in programs, Questbridge, etc. My overall goal is to raise the statistics of first-generation students pursuing higher education as well as achieving a degree. I strive for an active online community that acts as a safety net for others. Few friends of mine are first-generation, but all have been vocal about their experience of being first-gen. GenU1 is the platform.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I want to make this website known for other people across the nation. First, I will start right home, Las Vegas. Nevada ranks consistently last in education. I have to start where we are hurting the most. My plan is to market around schools in Las Vegas, then throughout the entire state. I want to start running ad's for GenU1, on social media, and make an app to get a range of students from all over the country to join. I also yearn for any partnership with non-profit organizations or businesses that can provide GenU1 exclusive scholarships for first-generation students. In addition, I want to increase the number of students applying to higher institutions and hold a challenge for students to participate in, which encourages applications.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Marketing Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 50%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 50%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 25%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 75%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


I love this idea! I think it would also be great for the students to be able to connect with non-first generation students to get a better understanding of things like the application process, but otherwise, it seems like it has potential!

Photo of Julia

Amira--this cause is so important, and really close to my heart. As you might be able to tell from my project, equity in education is neglected yet should be one of our highest priorities. Thank you for your work!

Photo of Sarah Holcomb

Hey Amira! Love this idea and how you're using writing and digital media to share stories and valuable resources with other first-gen students. The website looks amazing! It would be cool to build team of editors by collaborating with other first-gen college students, and maybe form chapters at high schools or colleges. Perhaps by partnering with local schools and clubs you can spread the word about the platform to build the readership and contributor base. All the best!

Photo of Salomée Levy

I will definitely look in to this as I will be a first generation college student:)!