The financial adversity first generation college students face

One organization shows college students entering university or continuing can overlook thousands in unclaimed scholarship money

As college students make their way into their first year of secondary education, they can overlook access to information regarding financial aid that can end up reducing or heightning their student loans.

Past student, Rocio Aurea, a first-generation student in her family, even struggled with the application process itself.

“Even just starting with the FAFSA my parents and I lacked the knowledge to correctly fill it out since they had not even graduated from high school, they had no idea what FAFSA was,” said Aurea.

Lack of financial knowledge and access places further economic divide on the student and makes it challenging for those who struggle financially.

“Being a first-generation college student from a low economic background, I was able to receive grants, which immensely helped my financial situation, however, it didn’t fully cover my tuition, so I started relying on scholarships and any financially-rewarding opportunity I could find,” Aurea said.

As reported by The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), an estimated $100 million in financial aid goes unawarded each year due to lack of applicants. When applying for scholarships, it is not only the lack of applicants that play a role in unrewarded money but also the number of applicants that actually receive the scholarship they apply for.

Reported by Scholarship Statistics in 2022, of the 7 percent of applicants that are likely to receive scholarships only 1.5 percent actually receive the full scholarship amount, averaging at $7,400.

For new and continuing students at the University of Washington Tacoma, assistance with FAFSA and WAFSA is available at the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships through online chat, in-person or phone. Services begin Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For live chat help visit:
For in-person help visit the Mattress Factory (MAT) building room 251.
To contact the office through phone: (253) 692-4374
To access UW Tacoma scholarships visit: