First-Generation Students in Law School: A Proven Success Model

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



academic success programs, diversity pathway programs


High school graduates whose parents did not themselves graduate from college are now entering undergraduate institutions in overwhelming numbers. They represent a significant constituency on college campuses across the country and undergraduate programs are investing resources to study and facilitate the academic success of these students as they work towards an undergraduate degree. Those students have been graduating in greater numbers and many are now pursuing graduate degrees, including law degrees. To grow student retention and graduation rates, law schools should be proactive in addressing the needs of this growing body of students.

For over two decades, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law has offered an alternative admissions program, called the Tennessee Institute for Pre-Law (“TIP”). This program aims to facilitate the admission, academic success, and graduation of diverse law school applicants who are denied admission through the regular application process. Among the diverse students TIP serves are first-generation college students. Over the years TIP has guided numerous first-generation college students to achieve law school admission, succeed academically, graduate, and ultimately pass the bar exam. TIP implements many strategies that benefit first-generation college students and should serve as a model for law schools interested in investing in the success of this growing population.