First-generation student Mikel Desjardins sits on a couch in the Hunter Student Commons, speaking with a female peer.

First-Generation Scholars Program

We're offering the most inclusive first-in-family program in Canada to increase access to education across all communities. 

Increasing access to impactful and future-focused education

Studies show that because of a lack of opportunity, first-generation students may face lower post-secondary participation rates unrelated to talent. Barriers to accessing university can be cultural, academic, financial and informational.

The new First-Generation Scholars Program opens doors by providing financial support and wraparound services for students who are the first in their family to attend university.

Eligible students will receive $2,500 towards their first year of tuition.

A mentorship program, a network of first-generation students, and specialized academic advising will begin immediately for current first-generation students.

Incoming first-generation students can apply for financial support to begin their studies in fall 2024.

Michael Barraza

Article: University of Calgary launches tuition support, mentorship for students who are first in their family to attend higher ed

Second-year natural sciences student Michael Barraza was born in Canada and grew up in Red Deer, Alta. His parents are refugees from El Salvador who never had the opportunity to pursue education beyond high school. 

Barraza is excited about the opportunities that will be provided to future first-generation students like himself. “Education is so important. Being able to learn to thrive is something that is incredibly beneficial. It's undeniable how impactful and how incredible it is for someone to be able to achieve that,” he says. 

Who is eligible for the First-Generation Scholars Program?

  • Canadian citizens, permanent residents, refugees, children or youth in care in Canada are eligible, making this the most inclusive program of its kind.
  • Students whose parents, legal guardians or chosen parents have never attended any form of post-secondary education, including college, trades training or apprenticeships, polytechnic, university, etc.
  • Students who are also entering post-secondary education for the first time.
  • Applicants must have been accepted into a degree program as a full-time student.
Grace Moore, a third-year student who is the first in her family to attend university sits at a table and speaks with a peer.
Mikel-Ange Desjardins

I am the first in my family to attend post-secondary. I definitely take it as a sense of pride. I proudly represent my family and my last name, which is a big, big honor for me. This program will definitely encourage students like me to keep pushing and chasing their dreams.

Mikel-Ange Desjardins

Second-year open studies student

Frequently asked questions

By choosing UCalgary, first-generation students can influence generations to come. 

Graduates frequently put their knowledge to work locally, sparking economic growth, cultural vitality and change.

  • This is a holistic program designed to help from orientation to graduation, and offers a robust suite of support services including mentorship, advising and networking opportunities.
  • It also includes $2,500 in financial support for incoming first-generation students who begin their studies in the fall of 2024.

By 2030, demand for post-secondary education is anticipated to rise dramatically. That’s why we’re looking to increase our total enrolment by 10,000 student spaces to 46,000 students by 2030.

  • To be eligible for the program, students must be fully qualified for university admission to an undergraduate degree program.
  • The First-Generation Scholars Program requires participants to be accepted into a full-time degree program. All students complete the same application process, and must meet the same application guidelines and criteria, to be accepted at UCalgary.
  • The University of Calgary offers over $20 million in student scholarships for undergraduate students, including $6.6 million in needs-based bursaries annually. This includes academic scholarships and bursaries based on financial need.
  • As part of Ahead of Tomorrow, the University of Calgary will also be working to increase the financial support for thesis-based graduate students to be the highest level among U15 research universities.
  • UCalgary has established temporary accommodation grants and emergency accomodations while support teams help students find affordable housing.
  • The university is also creating a residence master plan to determine student housing needs for the next decade.
  • Food security and mental health programs provide supports to vulnerable students throughout the year.
  • The University of Calgary has needs-based bursary programs that play a critical role in expanding access to education for students. All students with financial need are able to access these funds.
  • Financial need is only one of several barriers that first-generation students may experience to choosing to study at university.
  • Through Ahead of Tomorrow, we’re working to ensure that everyone with the talent and ambition to pursue a university degree can succeed at the University of Calgary.

Applications for fall 2024 close on March 1, 2024.

  1. Apply for undergraduate admission.
  2. Submit your application for high school entrance awards. Please note: You do not need to be admitted before you can apply for entrance awards, you just need a UCalgary student ID number.