Supporting First-Generation College Students
First-generation college students must overcome a variety of social, academic, and administrative barriers to succeed in college. 33% of first-generation students drop out within three years, compared to only 14% of continuing generation students. As the number of first-generation students grows, institutions face increasing pressure to improve outcomes for this group.
Educate first-gen parents about the college experience
Parents of first-generation students want to be involved during their child’s time in college, but they lack knowledge about the college experience and may feel they can’t provide support. Provide opportunities to orient first-gen parents to higher education and advise them on how to support their child throughout the first year and beyond.
Reduce jargon to make university materials more accessible for first-gen students
As soon as they begin interacting with colleges and universities, first-gen students must navigate systems, processes, and language they are unfamiliar with. Higher education terminology can be confusing, complicating task completion and reinforcing questions about belonging that often hinder first-generation students’ transition.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill completed a “translation exercise” to improve the readability of some of their most accessed resources for incoming students. View the case study below, then complete the jargon reduction exercise yourself.
Use positive identity-based messaging to foster community for first-gen students
Many first-generation college students struggle with their initial transition, often feeling isolated or questioning whether they truly belong at the institution.
Recognizing first-generation status as an important aspect of students’ identities communicates to them that they are not alone, they have resources to support them, and they shouldn’t be ashamed.
Extend career preparation to first-gen students
First-generation students may be underprepared for securing a fulfilling career after graduation. They might have limited personal connections, less experience networking, or be unfamiliar with professional interactions (e.g., reaching out to professional contacts for help and guidance). Learn how you can jumpstart career development for first-gen students.