What it’s like to be the first person in your family to go to uni

Your granny won’t stop telling all her friends

It’s a growing trend within our generation that more and more people are the first in their family to go to uni. 

Students who are the first in their family to attend uni are also known as “first generation students.”

These “first-gens” demonstrate the opportunity today’s society has for students to break the mould from their parents.

Some unis even offer grants to try and attract students from less privileged backgrounds – those who perhaps wouldn’t normally choose uni as an option.

We spoke to students from different socio-economic backgrounds and asked them what it’s like to be the first in their family to go to uni.

Ben Foreman, second year, UCL

Ben grew up in Surrey with his parents and twin sister, he alongside many of his school mates are the first in their families to go to university.

What do your parents do?

My dad is a financial advisor and my mum is a housewife – neither had an education good enough to go to university.

How do you feel being the first in your family to go to uni?

I feel very proud but more because I’ve made my parents and particularly my grandad proud. He grew up in a very poor family in Whistable, Kent, to fisherman and so loves telling all his friends about how his grandchildren are at universities. He’s so proud, he is always asking how I’m getting on with girls as well. 

Do you have friends who are the first in their family to go?

Yes loads of my friends are the first to go. I’m not sure the correlation between success and a university education was as common 30/40 years ago as it is now. Not to say you can’t be financially successful nowadays without it, but I think it’s harder than it was back then.

Why do you think more and more of this generation are the first people to go?

Probably because of Labour’s aim to get more and more people to university.


L’Oréal UKI are looking for hardworking students to start a new adventure after graduation, find out what it’s like to work at L’Oréal UKI.


Chloe Kenyon, second year, UCLan

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Chloe grew up in Lancashire and now lives at home with her brother studying Journalism at UCLan and thinks “going to uni from a non-privileged background doesn’t have a stigma attached to it like it used to.”

Why did you choose to go to university?

Mostly because I knew I wouldn’t get too far in journalism without a degree. These days more and more people have degrees and are still working pretty basic jobs, so having a degree is fairly necessary if you want to progress beyond that.

How do you feel being the first in your family to go to uni? 

With the current state of the country, it’s definitely something to be proud of. With rising tuition fees and student grants and loans dwindling away or disappearing all together, it feels like higher education is slowly turning back into something only the privileged will have ease of access to. Coming from a background that isn’t privileged, my degree will come with a little bit of extra pride.

Why do you think more and more of this generation are the first people to go?

I think for a while uni was more accessible than ever before. I think now it’s unfortunately becoming less accessible again. It’s so obvious every day that not everyone has the opportunity to go to uni. I think that definitely makes me appreciate it more.


Start your new adventure and apply to work at L’Oréal UKI today.


Ara Shikhalislami, third year, Warwick 

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Ara grew up in a council flat in West London. His parents are from Iran and didn’t “get the chance of a British education”. Now, he studies Mechanical Engineering at Warwick and is secretary of the polo team.

How come your parents didn’t go to uni?

My mum didn’t go because uni was too expensive and her parents were looking after a big family. She didn’t get the luxury I have of British education, growing up in Iran.

Do you think you are more hardworking because of your background?

I was always hard-working in school because I was one of the top in my class. When you go to a school that’s in a rough area, the teachers focus a lot of their attention on the bright kids – to make sure they do their best and go to the best unis. At school I felt like I had a lot to prove and a lot of people to impress but I also did it for myself.

Do you have friends who are the first in their family to go?

Most of my friends are the first in their family to go to uni. My school was in a rough area and was over 90 per cent ethnic minorities with similar backgrounds to mine – it’s not a surprise that a lot of my friends don’t have university-educated parents.


L’Oréal UKI are looking for innovators who want to break the mould and start a new adventure after graduation. Find out more about what it’s like to work at L’Oréal UKI.


Hannah Butterworth, second year, Salford

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Hannah grew up in Lytham, St. Annes, and was the third youngest in a family of seven children. Her dad works as a postman and mum has had various retail jobs.

How come your parents didn’t go to university?

My parents didn’t go to university because they weren’t ever really encouraged to, my dad grew up in Liverpool and my mum grew up in Burnley, both to working class families. University was never seen as an option in their families.

How do you feel being the first in your family to go to uni? 

I feel proud that I am the first to go, but I know that my older brothers and sisters didn’t need to go to university to get where they are. So whilst it’s great that I have come to university I don’t think that should be a reflection or comparison to the rest of my family.

Why do you think more and more of this generation are the first people to go?

I think more people are realising that the big companies are requiring a 2:1 or above from a degree to get in to the company. With more and more competition it’s important to have the education behind you. There are more opportunities for people to work abroad, and having a degree will put you one step closer to achieving their ideal career.


Hannah is working on the L’Oréal UKI internship programme. L’Oréal UKI are looking for students who want to start a new adventure. Find out what it is like to work at L’Oréal UKI.


Olivia Porter, third year, Trent

Olivia who is studying Broadcast Journalism at Trent, went to the same public school as her grandad and dad.

She said: “Having spent my whole life at public school everyone else around me was going and so I never really thought anything of it.”

What do your parents do?

My parents both work for the family businesses, my mum runs her dad’s business selling everything to do with coffee and my dad followed in his father’s footsteps and runs one of the two garages as a car dealer. My mum left school aged 15, dad left school aged 16 and both went straight into their family businesses. My parents always say when they were young none of their friends went to uni and that’s why they probably felt as though they didn’t have to go.

What do your parents think about you going to uni?

I once remember my mum saying to me “I don’t care if you finish your time at uni without a degree, as long as you’ve had the experience”. I think that what she felt she missed out on not going to uni – the experience. My grandparents were just the same – so proud of me. None of my family ever pushed me into choosing university though – which I think is great.


Start your new adventure todayFind out more about what it’s like to work at L’Oréal UKI.


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