Join First Generation Harvard Alumni!

"First Generation" is a group of Harvard alumni who are the first members of their families to attend college and who seek to support current first-generation students. Our mission is to make Harvard a better place for current first-generation students and help them to navigate Harvard successfully. We achieve this goal through mentoring, advocacy and providing networking opportunities. Thanks to the generosity of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, first-generation students make up a substantial portion (up to 18%) of today’s undergraduate student body.


Every summer, first-generation students may request a mentor for their freshman year.  First Generation Alumni are matched with students based on interest, location, background and other characteristics.  Mentors and students determine how and when they will meet or chat throughout the year and the time commitment is usually less than two hours per month. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, we matched more than 100 alumni mentors with over 100 freshmen mentees each year.  


Throughout the year, and especially from January through March, students seek career advice.  FGSU hosts well-attended panel discussions at Harvard with FGHA alumni through the Office of Career Services. If you would like to serve on a panel, have time to review a few resumes or offer informational interviews, please let us know. Networking also takes place informally at social events in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.


From time to time, First Generation Alumni voices help current students bring the administration’s attention to their needs.  Advocates of first-generation students also participate in gatherings on to welcome students, at Parents’ Weekend, with Admissions and the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative in April, and at ad hoc dinners during each semester.

Toward a diverse Harvard: Opinion Piece by Dan Lobo '14

Students for Fair Admissions Inc. doesn't understand Harvard admissions

Edward Blum, an opponent of the Voting Rights Act and the founder of Students for Fair Admissions Inc. (SFFA) would like you to believe that Harvard’s holistic admissions process discriminates against Asian-American applicants. Unfortunately, as Professor David Card methodically outlines in his rebuttal for the court, this claim is based on a fundamental mischaracterization of how Harvard admissions actually works. Here’s the truth.


Harvard College exists to educate citizens and citizen-leaders for our society, through “intellectual transformation.” This intellectual transformation is achieved through a diverse living environment where “students live with people who are studying different topics, who come from different walks of life and have evolving identities.” In less esoteric terms, Harvard is an extremely diverse community, across many dimensions, where everyone is there to learn and to teach.


With a 1950 SAT score, I may have not had much to teach my peers about the SATs. But, as the son of poor, hard-working immigrants and the first and only person in my family to attend college, I did have a lot to teach my peers about the inequity in our nation’s public education system and the unbelievable luck that it takes for a student like me to make it to a school like Harvard. 


Only through a process that considers all aspects of every applicant can such an outcome be achieved. Academic and extracurricular factors are crucial, but the teaching and learning from each other goes far beyond those. Sure, Harvard could fill its class with students who have perfect GPAs and SAT scores, but it instead considers a host of factors, including difficulty of courseload, high-school profile, teacher and counselor recommendations, extracurriculars, awards, athletics, intended major, intended career, essays, socioeconomic status, race, work experience, life experience, character, geographic area, relation to Harvard alumni, faculty and staff, and interviews. For the 40,000 aspiring Harvard students in a given year (and their parents), some of these factors will be easier to benchmark than others in order to gauge one’s chances of “getting in.


No one deserves a spot at Harvard. But if you want to get in, a little advice: rather than try to game the system, build on the more quantifiable metrics with a painting of oneself that is as committed to that intellectual transformation as Harvard is. Ideally with fingers crossed. Even then, recognize it’s about more than that any one person getting in.  It is also about crafting an entire class that will optimize the intellectual transformation in a given year. With enough spots for only 5% of applicants, this admissions process means that it takes a lot more luck to get into Harvard than any applicant wants to hear.


SFFA has presented no credible evidence proving that Harvard’s holistic admissions process discriminates against Asian-American applicants. In fact, Harvard has maintained a steady increase in applicants across racial categories. Over the past decade, the share of the Harvard admitted class that is Asian-American has grown by 29% – from 17.6% to 22.7%. This is twice the growth rate of Hispanic admitted students, which have increased their share of the class by 12% over that same period. More importantly the plaintiffs have shown no way forward on the overarching and widely supported ideal of higher education as a path to intellectual transformation for our future citizens and citizen-leaders.


Race-blind admissions will not achieve this mission because, unlike Mr. Blum, most Harvard students actually like to talk about and teach each other about race and ethnicity. We understand that equitable progress for society is impossible without a reconciliation of existing race relations and the democratic values to which we aspire. Students can only continue this work if Harvard and other colleges are allowed look at the whole person in admissions in order to bring those voices to campus. 


There are many parts of American higher education that are broken and require greater public scrutiny and reform. Harvard admissions isn’t one of them. 


Daniel Lobo is currently a Career Education Fellow at Harvard University. He is founder of the Harvard College First-Generation Student Union and current President of the First-Generation Harvard Alumni.

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