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First-Generation College Students

Congratulations on taking the first step towards obtaining a college degree! This page is here to guide you through the application and financial aid process by providing you with key resources on your journey to becoming a Wave. Whether you are a high school senior or a transfer student from another institution, we look forward to serving and supporting you through this exciting journey of pursuing a college degree.

What is a First-Generation College Student?

A first-generation college student is defined as a student whose parent(s)/legal guardian(s) have not completed a bachelor's degree at a four-year college or university. This means you will be the first to attend a four-year college/university and obtain a bachelor's degree. Being a first-generation college student can be intimidating as you are treading new waters, but it is also an accomplishment you should be proud of as it takes a great deal of determination and commitment. If you are nervous about the process, you are not alone. Thirty percent of entering freshmen in the United States are first-generation college students.


19% of the entire Seaver College undergraduate student body are first-generation college students.

19% of the Fall 2016 class were first-generation college students.

Student Testimony

Asa Bailey

"When I first started at school, I thought I knew all that I needed to be successful throughout my complete four years of college. I had my major and career plans set and I wasn't going to let anything steer me from that path. Being a first generation college student and a minority on campus, I felt a lot of pressure to not mess up. These pressures were ultimately coming from myself and my tendency to assume what others are thinking of me. I felt I would be scrutinized if I got a bad grade or didn't go the path that was expected of me. A few mess ups, three major changes and an open mind later, I am where I feel that I belong. It was the mistakes that I made and the rough patches that I went through that have built me into the woman that I am today and am still becoming.

There is no perfect college student and there is no definite path for life. Your goals can remain the same while the journey there will be full of the most unexpected things, but it all comes down to your faith in yourself to overcome and your willingness to utilize the numerous resources available to you. Without my family, my faith, PSP, my coworkers, my RA's and other faculty and staff, I'm not sure how I would continue to make it through school. Their wisdom, guidance, and loving hearts are what push me to do my best in all things and catch me when I fall. You are not and never will be alone! You will always have someone rooting for you and reaching out to help you. Have faith, take that hand, and enjoy your journey."

Learn more about Asa!

Pepperdine Summer Preview (PSP)

The Pepperdine Summer Preview (PSP) program is a three-day pre-orientation experience organized by the Office of Admission for a select group of admitted first-generation students. Staying in a residence hall with a cohort of other first-generation students, participants meet with various departments on campus, learn about available resources, and acclimate early to the Pepperdine community. For a more in-depth look at this program, check out the Pepperdine Magazine story First, Served.

PSP 2015

Information, Tips, and FAQ's


What does a "Super Score" on the SAT mean? Does Pepperdine accept a "Super Score?"
A Super Score refers to the highest overall score one can receive on the SAT based on the amount of times the student has taken the test. For example, if a student takes the SAT three different times and has the highest score in math the first time, then verbal in the next round, and writing the final time, the Office of Admission will combine the highest score from each test to give the highest overall score to count on the student's application. Please note that Pepperdine super scores the SAT but not the ACT.

How many letters of recommendation can I submit? Is it better to have a teacher from a more rigorous course write the letter or is the content more important?
You may submit as many recommendations as you would like. However, the Admission Committee will likely only read the one required recommendation, so it is best to only submit the recommendation you think is the strongest to ensure it will be reviewed. Typically the content is more important than the status of the person writing the letter. The committee wants to read a letter from someone who knows you on a deeper level. It is sometimes evident when the teacher does not know the student well which is important to try and avoid in order to make your application stand out.

Does Pepperdine offer early action or early decision?
Pepperdine offers early action admission for first-year students for the fall term, but does not offer early decision admission. Early action is nonbinding, meaning applicants are not required to enroll at Pepperdine if admitted. The early action application deadline for first-year students is November 1, and applicants will receive an admission decision by January 10. The regular decision application deadline for first-year and transfer students is January 15, and applicants will receive an admission decision by April 1. For a complete application timeline, check out the Application Deadlines page.

Does Pepperdine offer interviews for prospective students?
Unfortunately, Pepperdine does not offer interviews. However, it is always good to meet your admission counselor if they are visiting your high school in the fall. Check in with your college and career center to see if they will be visiting your school in the months of September, October, and November. If an admission counselor is not visiting your high school you can meet them during an on-campus information session that are held Monday-Friday at 11:00am and 2:00pm.

Will the major I choose on my application have any weight in my admission?
The chosen major on the application does not affect the admission decision. Therefore, it is important to choose the major you are actually interested in pursuing.

Can I request an application fee waiver?
Yes. The application fee waiver request is available under the "Profile" section in the Common Application. The applicant must explain the reason for the fee waiver. However, please know that submitting this request will not affect your application or financial aid in any way.

Pepperdine On-Campus Resources

There are a variety of on-campus resources for first generation college students. 

Financial Assistance

How do I apply for financial assistance?
Fill out the FAFSA by February 15 in order to be evaluated for financial assistance. Students who complete the FAFSA will automatically be considered for academic scholarships.

When will I receive my financial aid letter?
Admitted students receive their financial aid package via e-mail and hardcopy mail approximately 2-3 weeks after receiving their acceptance notification.

What percentage of students receive financial aid?
Approximately 84% of undergraduate students at Pepperdine receive some form of financial assistance.

What scholarships and grants are offered at Pepperdine?
Please visit the Financial Assistance website for a complete list of options and requirements available to prospective students. 

What are my loan options? What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?
Please visit the Financial Assistance website for more information about the various loans Pepperdine students are offered and information on their interest rates.

What kind of outside or non-Pepperdine scholarships are available for first-generation college students?
Please visit the First-Generation Scholarships webpage for a list of scholarship opportunities exclusively for first-generation college students. 

High School Preparation

I had to work many hours in high school to take care of my family and/or younger siblings. Because of this, I did not have many extracurricular activities. Will this decrease my chances of being considered "involved?"
The Admission Committee understands that every student has unique circumstances and not everyone has the privilege to participate in many outside activities. Therefore, the Admission Committee views this role as both leadership and involvement because it still requires you to take time away from your studies and balance other responsibilities. This is something you can absolutely list on your application under extracurricular involvement and leadership.

I'm a junior in high school and have not taken many academically rigorous courses. Should I sign up for challenging courses in my last few semesters?
The Admission Committee evaluates transcripts to determine the level of academic rigor in the coursework and understands every school is different and some offer more advanced placement and honors courses than others. If your school offers rigorous courses, take enough to challenge yourself without compromising good grades in order to make your application more competitive.

Does Pepperdine evaluate freshman and senior year grades? 
The Admission Committee considers all semesters of coursework in the admission decision. Freshman through first semester of senior year is considered in the application process. Keep in mind that the committee evaluates the unweighted GPA.

Which test carries more weight, the SAT or the ACT?
Both tests are evaluated equally and there is no favoritism for one over the other. The advantage to the SAT is that we use a Super Score. At Pepperdine, it will not hurt your application to take both tests or to take them multiple times in order to raise your scores. Some schools do not provide this option, so it is important to find out beforehand which other schools will allow you to submit multiple test scores.

Should I take courses at a community college? 
There is no harm in taking courses at a community college to save time and money when you transfer those courses to Pepperdine. However, make sure the classes will transfer otherwise you may be paying for a course that will only count as elective units. You can find out if a community college has articulation agreements with Pepperdine by visiting the Academic Advising Web site.

How do you recommend I make the best use of my summer break so that it will stand out to your university?
If you have extra time over summer we recommend that you take on a leadership position, a summer job, and/or extra volunteer work. If you want to get ahead in coursework, taking classes at a local community college can waive courses at Pepperdine and help you get a head start. Please refer to the Academic Advising Web site for more information on transferable classes.

What is the difference between weighted versus unweighted GPA and which does Pepperdine consider?
Unweighted GPA means a student cannot receive a GPA higher than a 4.0. Weighted GPA is based off the 5.0 scale and gives extra weight to Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate (IB), and some honors courses making an "A" equal five points on a transcript rather than the standard four points. Pepperdine looks mainly at the unweighted GPA when evaluating the transcript which means it is important to not depend on the extra point to boost the overall GPA.

Does Pepperdine accept scores from AP and IB tests?
Yes! Please visit the Academic Advising Web site for a complete list of scores accepted by Pepperdine.

Curriculum Evaluation

If my high school did not offer Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, how will my application stand out from students who had those classes offered to them at their high school?
The Admission Committee will review every high school's profile and often high school counselors will insert information regarding how many advanced classes were offered at the school when they submit materials for your application. The committee takes into consideration that some schools may have more rigorous course options than others, while some maybe offer none at all. It is important to take the most rigorous courses your school does offer and feel free to challenge yourself further by taking college courses at a community college nearby.

My grades are average but I am heavily involved with a job and extracurricular activities. Will this be considered in the decision and compensate for my lower grade point average?
While it is important to keep your GPA high to stay competitive, the committee understands that balancing other activities involving a great deal of leadership, responsibility, and commitment are also important to factor into the decision. Although it is considered in the decision, it would be wise to focus on maintaining a strong unweighted GPA.

Does Pepperdine consider all classes when looking at a student's transcript(s)?
The committee looks mainly at your core academic courses. A few of the courses not considered into the GPA include Physical Education and most all elective courses.

Entering College

What percent of Pepperdine's student body are first generation college students?
21% of the incoming Fall 2013 class of undergraduate students were considered first generation college students.

How many units or classes should I take in my first semester of college?
Students can take between 12-18 units of coursework. Typically, most students generally take anywhere from 15-17 units in their first semester of college in order to balance the course load and participate in extracurricular activities. This is usually around 4-5 different classes.

How will I know what classes to register for in my first semester of college?
Students will have their first semester schedule built for them by an academic advisor to ensure there is no confusion with what classes to take. Following the first semester, students will be expected to plan and build their own schedules and can meet with academic advisors to gain any necessary support.

Can I bring a car on campus? 
Yes! First year students are allowed to have cars on campus. However, if you do not plan on having a car, the University has shuttles that circulate campus as well as shuttles that takes students off campus for shopping trips at the nearby grocery store and shopping center. There is also a car rental service on campus for students who need a car for a few days or even just a few hours at $8.50 an hour.

Are there any organizations on campus to get involved in for multicultural students?
Yes! We recommend working with the Intercultural Affairs Office. Please visit the Intercultural Affairs Web site for a list of club offerings. The office itself serves as a place to engage students from various backgrounds. Feel free to contact the office if you are interested in learning more about getting involved. E-mail: ICA@pepperdine.edu

Glossary of Terms

What do these words or phrases mean?

Freshman Retention - One of the main goals of a university is to have students who enter as a freshman come back the following year and eventually continue through graduation. Often, schools will look at the freshman to sophomore year retention rate specifically. This gives an idea of student success and satisfaction at their institution. According to the ACT, the national average is around 65%. At Pepperdine our freshman retention rate varies from 90-93% over the past few years.

Campus Visits - Prospective students and their families can register for a campus tour and information session to learn more about campus and the application process. Wear comfortable shoes during the walking tour and make sure to come 15 minutes early for parking. Stay for the information session if you want to meet an Admission Counselor and learn about how applications are evaluated and also to ask any questions. Sign up online for a campus visit!

Super Score - A term used to describe the process which the institution gathers standardized test scores on the SAT. At Pepperdine, students are welcome to take the SAT multiple times and each section will reveal a different score each time the test is taken. As a school that superscores, Pepperdine takes the highest score in the verbal, math, and reading from each time the student took the test to create a brand new high score to consider for admission.

National Candidate Deadline - This is the deadline for all students around the nation to let the institution of their choice know they will be attending their school. If students do not enroll by this date, they risk their chances of attending the school and their admission is no longer guaranteed.

Holistic Admissions Process - This term will be used at many different schools and implies that the Admission Committee will be looking at the entirety of the students' application; not simply relying on the GPA and SAT/ACT. The student will be evaluated by extracurricular activities, leadership, short answers, character, recommendations, mission fit, and any other relevant factor that gives a better understanding of the student.

Supplemental Materials - This is part of the application that is not already included in the main application and must be sent separately such as recommendation letters, transcript, and SAT/ACT scores. For a complete list of required materials is available here.

Grants - Financial assistance you will not have to pay back to your institution. Grants are often "need-based" (determined by FAFSA form) and are often seen as a "gift aid" since it does not need to be paid back.

Scholarships - Money offered to the students usually based on academic merit or talent. This does not need to be paid back but often requires a commitment to maintain a certain GPA or to offer one's talents through sports or the performing arts alongside being a student.

Loans - The government and often the institution loans the student money to pay for tuition. This does have to be paid back until the student finishes school or becomes a half-time student. It is important to consider what payments will look like after graduation to see if loans are worth the cost to attend. It is also important to consult with your family since this is an important financial decision.

Liberal Arts - This description applies to certain institutions that allow students to focus on a particular discipline while receiving exposure to a broad curriculum of academic subjects. There is an emphasis on the liberal arts and sciences. This contrasts from a professional, technical, or vocational curriculum.

Mission Fit - Read the mission statement of the university to see if you resonate with the values of the institution. Colleges base a great deal of their heritage and values from the few lines mentioned in this statement and so it is imperative for applicants to read and consider whether it aligns with them as well. For more information you can read the Pepperdine mission statement.

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