First-Generation and Low-Income College Student FAQ

What is a first-generation college student?

At Mount Holyoke College, first-generation is defined as a student in which neither parent has earned a four-year degree. However, the College recognizes that the definition of first-generation is fluid and embodies a diverse group of individuals who hold multiple identities. First-generation students can be self-defining domestic or international students who:

  • are the first to attend a four-year university and attain a college degree
  • did or do not have parents, guardians, or family systems to assist them in navigating the college process.
  • have current parents or family systems who did not attend a traditional four year institution and attain a college degree

First-generation college students can include:

  • Domestic and international students
  • Students from any income status (low, middle, and/ or upper)
  • Students of all ages
  • International students in which one or both parents did not attend college in the U.S.

Financial Matters

What is involved in paying for college?

Cost to attend college includes more than just tuition and housing. Other expenses include paying for books, travel costs, and fees related to experiences such as internships or conferences. Students pay for college tuition and other expenses in a variety of ways over the course of their Mount Holyoke experience. Strategies can include financial aid, on-campus work, and outside scholarships and gifts from different organizations such as churches, corporations, or social organizations.  Students should speak with their Financial Aid Director early and often to discuss the strategies that will best meet their needs and to understand how the different resources relate to each other.  Below is information for a few of these resources.

How does financial aid work?

Financial aid is a strategy used by approximately 80% of Mount Holyoke students, and if you have never gone through the financial aid application process before, it can be very confusing!  Most financial aid at Mount Holyoke is need-based, which means we use the income and assets of the family in relation to where they live, household size, number of dependent children attending undergraduate institutions and other factors to determine each student’s financial aid package.  Need is defined as the difference between the student’s estimated cost of attendance (which includes tuition, room and board, fees, books and personal expenses) and the family contribution (cost minus family contribution = need/total financial aid). If a student has demonstrated financial need, then this need is fully met with a combination of grants and/or scholarships, student loans and on-campus work funding.

All aid packages include a family contribution.  The family contribution consists of a parent and student contribution, and at a minimum the student is expected to contribute $2,650. 

Financial aid is typically reviewed on an annual basis and loan eligibility increases by $1,000 each year.  Learn more about student eligibility and financial aid policies.

Who is eligible for merit scholarships?

A student does not need to apply for financial aid in order to be considered for merit scholarships. Incoming applicants are considered automatically for these awards, without regard to financial need: no additional application is required. Merit scholarships are not awarded to upperclass students continuing their education at MHC.  

Learn more about merit scholarships

Can I apply for outside scholarships?

We encourage students to apply for scholarships from organizations outside of Mount Holyoke to help reduce overall loan debt or, in some cases, help with the family contribution. To learn more about these scholarships, including MHC scholarships, you can review the following websites:

Learn more about scholarships, including scholarship scams, on the FinAid website.

How does billing work?

All students are billed (per semester, in July and December, via online ebill) for the cost of tuition, room and board, SGA Activities fee and health insurance (fall only charge – see below for more information). To determine the balance of the bill before the bills are released, add those billed items and subtract your grants, scholarships and loans as shown on your Financial Aid Online account. **Please note, work study is not deducted from the bill as it is paid throughout the school year to the student as it is earned.

Learn more about billing, payment plans and setting up Authorized Users who can view the bill.

Can the health insurance fee be waived?

Health insurance is required by state law and students can waive the health insurance fee with comparable coverage.

Learn more about health insurance and how to waive the cost.

What happens if I have financial difficulties?

If a student is experiencing difficulty paying the bill, the Student Financial Services office should be their first contact.  Student Financial Services is here to help!  Every student’s financial aid determination is unique and it is best to reach out to them to discuss your options, whether they are financing for short term cash flow problems, or requesting a full review of your financial aid application because a permanent change has occurred in your family’s finances.  

Every student has a Financial Aid Director assigned to their file. Contact our staff.

Is emergency financial assistance available?

Dean of Students Emergency Loans

All students are eligible to apply for an 90 day interest-free emergency loan up to $300.00 through the Dean of Students Office. This loan is meant to assist students with unanticipated financial needs. To apply or learn more about this loan, contact the Dean of Students Office or call 413-538-2550.

Frances Perkins Scholars Emergency Fund

Frances Perkins Scholars are eligible to apply for an 90 day interest-free emergency loan up to $250.00 through the Frances Perkins Scholars Program . These loans are meant to assist students with unanticipated financial needs. To apply or learn more about this loan, contact the Frances Perkins Office or call 413-538-2077.

International Student Emergency Fund

International students are eligible to apply for interest-free loans to cover true emergencies. Emergency loans are never granted to pay student fees (i.e., tuition, room & board, SGA fee), college bills (books, health insurance), or other expenses such as computer purchases, etc.  The amount of a loan is normally $200.00-$250.00, but there may be exceptions depending on individual situations.

You would qualify for an emergency loan if:

  • you have unexpected medical expenses which go beyond what your health insurance can cover (this includes purchase of eyeglasses).
  • you have unexpected dental bills.
  • you must make an emergency trip home or to a relative's house because of a family emergency.

Employment Matters

Is career advising available?

The Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke College helps students explore interests, refine their paths, chart a course for the future, and gain the practical experience needed to succeed. They facilitate connections between students and employers, alumnae, and other professionals to create opportunities to engage and build networks.

Two great reasons to be in touch with the CDC during the first year on campus are to seek campus jobs and to make plans for the summer. They offer a wide variety of resources, programs, and events throughout the year, and also encourage students to talk with an advisor at any point. Asking what resources we have to offer and figuring out your next steps are great reasons to visit, and the CDC welcomes students who are exploring their interests and who aren't yet sure what type of internship or career field to pursue!

Meeting with an Advisor

The CDC offers several opportunities for advising.  Learn more.

Are there opportunities for student employment?

A listing of vacant on and off campus student employment opportunities can be found in JobX.

Job openings are advertised throughout the academic year. Students with work-study in their financial aid packages are eligible for any job.  Students who are not packaged with work-study can only work job levels 2-5.   

Most hiring happens at the Student Employment Job Fair in March, and in the first few weeks of each semester.  However, you will be responsible for finding the position that aligns with your preferences and schedule. A cover letter and resume will be needed to apply. Thus, we encourage you go to the Career Development Center to polish your application materials and interviewing skills.

Periodically, there are also off-campus service oriented student employment opportunities available. For more information, visit Community Based Learning.

What internship programs are available?

Internships are an excellent way for you to obtain professional experience and explore career options. It is not uncommon for MHC students to later secure permanent employment from the organization where they interned. However, if MHC students do not obtain employment at the organization at which they intern, internships enable our students to develop skills and confidence while establishing contacts who could serve as leads to job opportunities elsewhere. 80% of MHC students complete an internship while at MHC.

You can find school year and summer internships through Mount Holyoke College internship programs. To learn more about these internship programs, please visit the Career Development Center website.  You can also call the Career Development Center at 413-538-2080 to schedule an appointment to speak with a career advisor.

Is conference or internship funding available?

Student Conference Fund

All students are eligible to apply for a one-time funding to supplement conference fees (i.e., registration, lodging, travel, meals) through the Dean of Students Office. In order to apply, students must submit a written statement illustrating how the conference is beneficial to their curricular and/ or co-curricular development and an estimated budget. Students who apply normally receive up to $300.00. To apply or learn more about this loan, contact the Dean of Students Office or call 413-538-2550.

Lynk Internship Funding

MHC provides funding of $3,000 for domestic internships and $3,600 for international internships to every eligible* student who has secured a qualified summer internship or research position and completed all components of the Lynk UAF application by the deadline. Learn more about internship funding.

What support is available for first-generation and low-income students on campus?

First-Generation College Students Support Group

Sponsored through the Counseling Services. This support group meets weekly and provides a safe space for first-generation college students to discuss their experiences with students who have similar lived experiences. To lean more about this group in addition to other support groups, contact Counseling Services.

First-Generation and Low-Income Partnership

FLIP, Mount Holyoke's First Generation and Low-Income Partnership, is a student organization for first-generation and low-income students. Their purpose is to help students find community within an institution that is traditionally affluent and built on legacy. FLIP sponsors events and conferences designed to orient first-generation and low-income students.

Learn more on the FLIPMHC facebook page, or email FLIP at mountholyokelifg@gmail.com.

Financial Peer Mentors

FPMs are students employed by the Student Financial Services Office who participate in student outreach and financial literacy for all students, but have a focus on first generation and low-income students.  Their goal is to improve financial awareness as it applies to personal finances and the college’s billing and financial aid processes.  If you have a question for an FPM, email Student Financial Services at sfs@mtholyoke.edu or look for them at campus events!

Faculty and staff support

Mount Holyoke College has several faculty, staff, and administrators who provide support services for first-generation and low-income college students. This includes Academic Deans and members of the Office of Student Success, the Division of student Life, and many more.

Academic Deans and Office of Student Success and Advising

The academic deans located on the 3rd floor of Mary Lyon Hall are the best point of contact for any academic questions or concerns. The deans speak with students about course selection, academic and career goals, short- and long-term planning, time management/academic strategies, and much more. The deans are available every day by appointment. To make an appointment, call 413-538-2855.

OSSA is also home to AccessAbility Services where students can talk about accommodations for disabilities of any kind (learning, mental or physical). An appointment can be made with AccessAbility Services by calling 413-538-2634.

Learn more about the Academic Deans or AccessAbility Services.

First-Generation College Student Work Group

The First-Generation College Student Work Group is comprised of administrators, faculty, and staff whose work (i.e., educational research, practice, advisement, services, and programmatic initiatives based in their job portfolio) influences the retention, persistence, and matriculation of first-generation college students at Mount Holyoke College. The purpose of the first-generation work group is to provide programmatic initiatives necessary in supporting first-generation college students at MHC.

Current members of the first-generation faculty/staff work group

  • Christine Albain, Area Coordinator for Residence Life, 413-538-2088
  • Angelica Castro, Assistant Director of Community Engagement, Community Based Learning Program, 413-538-3183
  • Roshonda DeGraffenreid FP'10, Assistant Director & Pre-Law Advisor, Career Development Center, 413-538-2080
  • Latrina L. Denson, Assistant Dean of Students, Division of Student Life,413-538-2550
  • Stacey Downing, Assistant Director, Student Financial Services, 413-538-2291
  • Becky Wai-Ling Packard, Director of the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership; Professor of Psychology and Education, 413-538-3071
  • Kim Parent, Assistant Dean of Studies and Class Dean for New Students, Academic Deans, 413-538-2855
  • Ivonne Ramirez, Assistant Director for Student Programs and Leadership, Division of Student Life, 413-538-2478
  • Veronica Salazar,  Associate Director of Admission and Coordinator of Diversity Outreach, Office of Admission, 413-538-2023

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