Embrace being a first generation college student!

Being the first member of your family to attend college is a big accomplishment and an exciting challenge. You will be traveling uncharted territory and will probably want some guidance. At North Central College we work together with first-generation students on their journey toward Commencement. We take pride in seeing you succeed. That’s why we offer Cardinal First.

Our Cardinal First Program

Cardinal First is an award-winning program* that creates a community among our first-generation students, faculty and staff. North Central is nationally recognized as a leader in first-generation programming, and Cardinal First was the subject of a feature on National Public Radio (NPR) in honor of National First-Gen Celebration Day. 

We provide a structured approach to help you succeed in the classroom, get you involved with the campus, support your growth as a person and prepare you to apply what you’ve learned in the world around you.

Cardinal First logo

Join Us

There is no cost to join Cardinal First. Events are optional but strongly encouraged given the benefits involved. More than 500 North Central students are already participating in Cardinal First, and we would be happy to add you to our community. Contact us at cardinalfirst@noctrl.edu or 630-637-5155 for more information or with any questions you have.

Cardinal First

Our Award-Winning Program

Cardinal First received the 2018 Grand Silver Excellence Award and Gold Excellence Award from NASPA, an international professional organization for student affairs. Naperville Community Television published a video about Cardinal First winning the award.

Student Testimonials

Parent Testimonials

First-Generation Faculty

Cardinal First Outcomes

Cardinal First Events

graduates at commencement

First-Gen Alumni Network

Cardinal First Benefits

North Central offers Cardinal First participants:

  • A built-in network of first-generation peers, ambassadors, faculty and staff who offer mentoring and support
  • The opportunity to apply for our renewable Cardinal First Scholarship of $1,000 beginning your sophomore year (see below)
  • Free monthly interactive lunch workshops on what you need to know to succeed at North Central
  • Programming from your first day on campus through graduation

Programs specifically for Cardinal First students

Continuing support

  • Continuing programs throughout your sophomore, junior and senior years, designed to oversee your progress and answer questions specific to your first-generation experience
  • A yearly planner and calendar to help keep you on schedule and stay on top of what’s happening on campus
  • An exclusive Cardinal First T-shirt
  • Leadership and training for Cardinal First Ambassadors beginning as sophomores

Cardinal First Scholarship Program

First-year, first-generation students who complete the Cardinal First program requirements during their first-year at North Central and have a GPA of 2.0+ will be eligible to receive a renewable $1,000 Cardinal First Scholarship for their sophomore, junior & senior years.

First-gen Forward logo

Scholarship Criteria

General Eligibility

  • Must be a first-generation college student (neither parent has completed a four-year degree)
  • Must be full-time undergraduate student at North Central
  • Must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0+ at the end of your first year

Scholarship Requirements

  • Submit a completed Cardinal First Scholarship application by January 31 of your first year.
  • Application requires a current resume and faculty reference.

Cardinal First Ambassadors

Cardinal First Ambassadors are leaders and mentors to our first-year, first-generation students. Ambassador candidates must be first-generation students, have a 2.75+ GPA, act in accordance with the North Central College handbook, and demonstrate a desire to improve leadership, interpersonal and communication skills. Responsibilities include participation in monthly leadership development workshops, mentoring and outreach to five to eight first-year, first-generation students each term, and serving as a table host at Cardinal First Friday workshops. There are currently 65 Cardinal First Ambassadors on campus. Contact Julie Carballo, the director of First Generation Programs for more information.

A group of Cardinal First Ambassadors.

Get Social with Cardinal First

Follow Us

Follow Cardinal First and Teach First on Facebook as well as our Cardinal First Instagram and use #FirstgenForward in your posts.

cardinal first meeting