Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



This study analyzes how highly selective universities used their COVID-19 websites to publicly address first-generation students and the challenges these students faced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Specifically, the study investigates whether universities were generation-blind in their responses. The universities’ responses are defined as generation-blind if their COVID-19 websites did not a) reference or acknowledge generational identity; and/or did not b) address the issues that first-generation students faced at the onset of the pandemic and transition to remote learning. Findings show that highly selective universities almost never mentioned the term “first-generation students” on these websites and rarely addressed several critical issues that concerned first-generation students. These issues include: the challenge of navigating the complexities of the first-generation identity during the pandemic; the struggles that family members of these students faced (i.e. job loss); the students’ imperative to support their families (i.e. helping to watch younger siblings); and the difficulties students faced by having to use their homes as learning environments.


first-generation students, generation-blindness, COVID-19, highly selective universities, generational identity, college websites



Date Posted: 02 March 2021