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Working with First Generation Students


First-Generation college students are defined as someone whose parent(s)/guardians did not complete a 4-year degree OR completed a degree at a foreign university. Being first-generation is important to note as parents may not understand the nuances of higher education, thus leaving the students at a disadvantage.

National Research Says:

  • 33% of students are considered first-generation
    • 59% of first-generation students are also the first sibling in their family to attend college
  • After six years of first entering post-secondary education, 56% of first-generation college students have not earned any post-secondary credential.
  • In their first year in post-secondary education, a higher percentage of first-generation students used financial aid services, but lower percentages used health, academic advising, and academic support services.

Research Often Forgets to Mention:

  • First-generation students are breaking down barriers and paving new paths for themselves.
  • Being first-generation is a motivator for many students.
  • Going to college means learning to walk between worlds, and for some, never quite fitting in to either. Support from institutions and faculty members can have a real and positive impact on first-generation students.
  • First-generation students have identified mentorship as a key component of successful student services.

Supporting First-Generation Students:

  • Simplify and explain how to navigate your course
  • Be transparent about classroom expectations
  • In addition to course material, teach students how to study
  • Encourage students to connect with campus activities and groups
  • Develop personal relationships
  • If you are a first-generation college student, fight invisibility by sharing your own path
  • Know the resources available to first-generation students such as TRIO Student Support Services

Things to Avoid:

  • Assuming intersectionality with first generation and low-income
  • Assuming that a first-generation student is not academically ready for college

The More you know:

Working with First-Generation Students