A better way to engage first-generation parents

Expert Insight

A better way to engage first-generation parents

At least 24% of students enrolled in four-year institutions do not have a parent that graduated from a four-year institution. While continuing generation students can rely on their parents for guidance and support throughout their college experience, the parents of first-generation college students often have very little or no experience in a college environment. As a result, they are unable to provide the same type of advice and support for their children.

First-generation college students’ parents are often very eager to support their students’ college efforts, but many don’t know how. Institutions have done a lot to try and reach out to and engage parents in general. Typically, they send parent newsletters and emails, but this form of traditional parent outreach doesn’t equip the parents of first-generation college students with the ability to support their children’s lives on campus.

These parents want to know more about the student experience. Since first-generation parents cannot rely on personal experience, universities must provide them with the information they need to be a source of support for their children.

common questions

University of Missouri’s tailored approach to parent newsletters

Administrators at the University of Missouri received feedback from families that parents wanted more information throughout the academic year on what was going on in their students’ lives. In response to this, they tailored their parent newsletters to meet the demand for more specific information.

The revamped, monthly newsletters focus on what is happening on-campus, usually highlighting one particular issue affecting their student’s life, such as midterms. The emails contain specific talking points and campus resources for parents to discuss with their students. They remind parents that they are an important influential resource and empower them with information to support that.

For example, in the early fall, as students are in the midst of adjusting to life on campus, Missouri uses the newsletters to focus on wellness. Topics like the one below encourage parents to play an active role in their student’s college experience.

University of Missouri

Overall, the mailings have been very well received. The university distributes them to approximately 23,000 parents each month.

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