5 smiling future first-gen college students

College Changes Everything

Reality Changers is a nonprofit organization in San Diego that prepares youth to become first-generation college graduates and agents of change in their community.

5 smiling future first-gen college students

Over The Edge

Challenge yourself & change lives. Join us on August 25, 2024 for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Steven's Story

Get to know Steven, a Class of 2022 high school graduate, who is currently completing his first year at San Diego State University.

Student working on a poster

Give Monthly

Monthly giving spreads the financial impact of your contributions across the entire year, lessening the one-time impact on your wallet and allowing you to give more over time.

Our Work

Smiling high school graduate with cap and gown

Supporting First-Generation Futures

Reality Changers serves youth who will be the first in their families to graduate from college. Our programs support students from racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and academic backgrounds that are typically underrepresented on college campuses and overlooked by institutions. In fact, before Reality Changers, many of our students may not have considered themselves "college material."

Launching Agents of Change

College degrees create new opportunities for individuals. On average, a Bachelor's degree increases a person's lifetime earnings by 84%.

College builds equity for underserved communities. Not only do our graduates bring new economic resources to their families and neighborhoods, they also and work, invest, and get involved in their communities.

2 young adults in professional attire

Our Youth

High school student standing outside

Alvaro (‘23)

The Preuss School UC San Diego
“Reality Changers shows you that school could change your life, even if you don’t think it might.”
Karina Cardenas Graduation

Karina (‘17)

UC Berkeley
“Reality Changers has definitely been the backbone in my life, in my academics and on a personal level.”

Michael (‘10)

“Reality Changers taught me how to discover the power of my own story.”

Our Impact


X 8

Eight times more likely
to graduate from college


people served Annually
8th grade to career & families


High School Graduates
Since 2001

Our Programs

A volunteer tutor helps a high school student

College Town

College Town is a cost-free afterschool and summer program for 8th-11th graders. The curriculum focuses on building a strong foundation of academic, personal, and community-building skills. Students receive tutoring, join field trips, participate in community service outings, and more. Programs for families help to build resiliency and prepare parents for college.


College Apps Academy provides cost-free support for high school seniors through the college application process and beyond. We help students get into the 2 and 4-year institutions that are the best fit for them, with an emphasis on maximizing financial aid options and preparing for college life.

Reality Changers alumni at a reunion

The Alumni Network

Just getting first-generation students into college isn’t enough. Nationally, 90% of first-generation, low-income college students don’t graduate within six years. The Alumni Network helps youth get through college graduation and launch their careers.


Volunteer tutor helps a student who is using a computer


Looking to get involved with nonprofit organizations in San Diego? You can be the person that makes a difference in a young person’s life.



Come see our education center and meet students working to become first-generation college graduates.



Help youth achieve their dreams.

Blog and Media Coverage

See How Reality Changers Makes a Difference

What is a first-generation college student

What is a First-Generation College Student? Am I One?

Applying to college means learning dozens of new vocabulary words and phrases. From syllabi to credit hours, it’s easy to get lost amidst the flurry of new terminology. Among these terms, you might come across “first-generation college student.” But what exactly does that mean, and how do you know if it applies to you? Let’s […]

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tips for college students

Top Tips for First-Generation College Students

Starting college can be a real challenge, especially for first-generation students who may face unique hurdles and uncertainties. Unlike their peers who come from families with prior experience navigating the higher education system, first-generation students often lack the guidance and support networks that others may take for granted. From navigating the college application process to […]

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first generation college student statistics

Breaking Barriers: Exploring First Generation College Student Statistics

Attending college for the first time is a big step for any student. For those who are the first in their family to pursue a college degree, the path is often paved with unique challenges and triumphs. As we delve into first-generation college student statistics, we uncover a narrative of resilience, determination, and the power […]

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first generation college student struggles

Navigating Change: Challenges for First-Generation College Students

College is a time of transition. Many students enter as teens—unsure of themselves and their place on campus—and graduate as adults, ready to take on the world. It’s a transformative time, to say the least. During this journey, first-generation college students often encounter a distinct set of challenges that can impact their academic success and […]

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