Helping first Generation Students feel like they belong and provide them with resources to support them throughout college.

First generation students today are faced with academic, financial, and cultural challenges, even as a college education is ever more necessary for career achievement. The purpose of this research project is to not only investigate the challenges of first-generation students, but provide solutions, resources, and policies that protect and support them. In class, we were assigned to read, “Taking My Parents to College” by Jennine Capo Crucet. This author was a first generation student who shared their experience of their freshman of college. This article argument was there was a lack of support and resources for first generation students which can cause some students to quit school, take longer to graduate, or them to work harder than any other student. This was an eye opener to the reality of college experiences with first generation students. My father was a first-generation college student who struggled to stay afloat financially and academically which lead him to take longer to complete his degree. I want to learn more of the challenges of first-generation students and how to provide them with more resources for them to be successful in all aspects meaning financially, academically, and culturally.

Who are first generation students? First generation students can come from families with low incomes or from middle- or higher income families without a college-going tradition. There are different situations that create stops the college-going tradition. At times, some students are under family pressure to enter the work source right after high school. Some students do not know what their option are regarding higher education.  (College Board ) First generation students may miss the “hidden curriculum” of policies, procedures, and processes which can make navigating, belonging, and succeeding a challenge. (Felix )

 With the issue of unemployment rates increases, I believe that decreases or solving the challenges that first-generation students face by giving them support and resources. This can positively affect the economy by providing a higher educated individuals to get the more rigor jobs. This also makes it less likely for one to be low income by providing them with the education and possible connections to get a high paying job. For example, if a first-generation student attends Aurburn University and graduates in finance. Graduating from Auburn makes you apart of their alumni and this creates more opportunities in your career field.  My research paper should not only bring awareness to the challenges of being a first-generation student but give advice, support, and resources to bring financial, social, and academic relief.

Elliot Felix is the founder of the Brightspot strategy who help institutions improve the experience for students, faculty, researchers, employees, travelers, fans, and visitors alike. This article is providing five ways to better support first-generation students and an understanding of the first-generation student’s journeys. He uses statistics from The Center for First-Generation Success and National Center for Education Statistics to find the issues or challenges statistically to find solutions for. Also, he provides key resources as well as five things institutions can do to improve the student journey-based finding from Brightspot’s Student Experience Snapshot. The Snapspot is a online survey that provides a complementary way to understand the first generation student experience holistically and with enough details to inform institutions on how to improve.

“According to NASPA and the National Center for Education Statistics, compared to continuing generation students, first-generation student’s six-year graduation rate is 2.5x lower, their median parental income is 45% lower, their median hours of employment are 1.6x higher, and they are 24% less likely to use academic advising and are 23% less likely to academic support services.” (Felix) The author gives this statistic to make the reader aware of how first-generation students struggle to not support themselves financially but are not provided the academic advisement even if they are low income. These students lack the parental financial support as their parents have a lower income which should make them qualify for financial aid. A lower percentage of first-generation students made use of academic advising services, health services, and academic support services than continuing-generation students. “By focusing on belonging, service navigating, student projects, technology, and facilities, institutions can improve first- gen experience and outcomes like persistence and completion.” (Felix).

In Brightspot snapshot, first-generation students rated their experience significantly less positively than their continuing generation peers when it comes to “belonging to a group I identify with”. An example of creation cohorts and networks that build belonging and community for first generation students are Duke University’s LIFE( Low Income First-Generation Engagement) which creates and provides a community space, resources, and advocacy for students on Duke’s campus who identify as first generation and/ or low income. This helped increased the first-generation graduation rate from 41 percent in 2012 to 62 percent in 2018. (Felix)

 College Board is the nation’s largest college- going organization, helping millions of students navigate the transition from high school to college each year through programs like the SAT, AP, and BigFuture. On their website, there is an article on how to counsel first-generation students about college. This provides strategies on how to win scholarships, find the right colleges for you, organization who offer support, information on how college will be like,and get special help with college applications as they would be foreign to not only you but your family as well. In articles, it says that that first generation students have little exposure to the complex college planning process and have minimal knowledge of what education requirements are need for certain professions. First, this student would want to understand their interests and abilities and connect them to a career and higher education options. One can complete this task but conducting aptitude assessments, self-assessments, self-reflection, speaking to different individuals in different career paths, etc. This is important because this can ensure that the student not only want to pursue higher education but has the self-identity and awareness to seek out scholarships that fit their image of what they want to be. (CollegeBoard)

Also, this can build the student academically pushing them to take classes geared in their wanted major and strengthen their weaknesses. When discussing college options with these students, its is important to look at the different types of colleges to choose the one best suited for you. Encourage the student to visit colleges and take advantage of college fairs and information nights. Students’ preconceptions that they can not afford college can easily get full scholarships, grants and financial aid. Some colleges even seek out first-generation students to provide them with the opportunity to join their college free of charge.

It is very important  that students and families know not to pay anyone to help find scholarships, fill out the FAFSA or handle any other aspect of financial aid process.  Students should to informed about what college will be like . They can attend web seminars or youtube videos. Its important for them to know of the support systems on campus to use to their extent and that they are free through their tuition fees. Encourage them to seek out these on campus resources and programs.First generation student from families with low income may qualify for waivers of test fees and college application fees. Students should also apply for research programs for first-generation and other at-risk students such as AVID, CollegeED, Talent Search, Upward Bound, Urban League, and summer bridge programs. This would not only introduce students on how college works, job opportunities, and scholarships, but provide them with more resources to navigate college better. (CollegeBoard)

As a first generation student, Standlee provides advice on her to better first-generation college experience it ensure i runs as smoothly as possible. She uses her mistake and faults to provide multiple solutions to different scenarios. Building a mandatory introduction to college life or first-year experience element into the curriculum is very helpful to first-generation students ” I recommend that they consider the following: provide appropriate support, be transparent in the classroom, teach study skills, organize students into groups, develop personal relationships, engage parents, facilitate connections, fight invisibility, and keep an open mind. “(Standlee) 

In conclusion, first-generation college students can’t rely on advice from college-educated parents about navigating college life. They are usually not familiar with the details of college life, academic resources and social expectations, so they can need guidance( Standlee). Institutions can provide such support in the form of writing centers and tutoring centers, but it is essential to build those into the core curriculum to avoid stigmatizing first-gen students alone. Faculty members and advisers can play a huge role in the lives of all college students. For first-generation students, they may be the most significant connections that they will make when it comes to academic success. These faculty member and advisers can make major opportunities for them in their wanted career field  or even provide internships to improve the likelihood of getting a job straight out of college graduation.  College leaders and faculty members, including those who are first generation themselves, play a role in the development of policies and practices to help them deal with those challenges.

Sources 

College Board. “First-Generation Students.” Education Professionals, 21 Feb. 2017, professionals.collegeboard.org/guidance/prepare/first-generation.

Felix, Elliot. “How to Improve First-Gen Student Experience at Higher Ed Institutions.” Brightspot Strategy, 6 Apr. 2020, www.brightspotstrategy.com/first-generation-student-experience-higher-education/#:~:text=A%20second%20way%20is%20to,lower%2C%20their%20median%20hours%20of.

Standlee , Alecea. “Inside Higher Ed.” Policies and Practices to Help First-Generation College Students Succeed (Opinion), 2019, www.insidehighered.com/views/2019/04/11/policies-and-practices-help-first-generation-college-students-succeed-opinion.

Crucet, J. C.  Taking My Parents to College. The New York Times, 2015, August 22 https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/opinion/sunday/taking-my-parents-to-college.html.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *