Parent Resource Expert’s Tip of the Month – January

Understanding (and overcoming) the Challenges that face First-Generation College Students

Tip courtesy of University Parent Media

While some students’ eyes may glaze over when their parents recall their college days, these students have an advantage. First-generation college students who are the first in their immediate family to attend college face a unique set of challenges. Without guidance from a parent who experienced college, first-generation students are at a disadvantage.
According to a report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, first-generation students who enroll in post secondary institutions have lower degree completion rates. While 56 percent of students whose parents have a bachelor’s degree attain a degree within five years of enrolling, only 44 percent of first-generation college students earn a degree.

Students who are the first in their family to attend college may also experience culture shock. Family and friends who haven’t experienced college may have difficulty understanding what first-generation students encounter. These students may lack the knowledgeable support networks of more college-savvy families.
However, with a little extra preparation, first-generation students can be as successful completing their degrees as their peers. If your student is the first in your family to head to college, use these tips to make college life easier for both of you.

Stay Involved

Since this is both you and your student’s first time navigating the college process, make sure you stay involved. The better you understand what your student is experiencing, the more able you’ll be to lend support. The importance of parental support doesn’t end after they’ve enrolled. Once they arrive on campus, you may be less capable of understanding the pressures college students face. Learning about what your student’s life is like at college will make it easier for you to be supportive. 

Enroll your student in a Bridge Program

Bridge programs help first-generation students become more comfortable on campus and can make up for a lack of college preparation during high school. These programs usually take place the summer before freshman year and can make the transition to college smoother. 

Encourage your Student to Know their Counselors

Since first-generation college students can’t always turn to you for advice on college matters, encourage your student to develop a relationship with their academic and college counselors. Since first-generation students tend to be less prepared for college than students whose parents attended college, explore academic support resources on campus. 

Have your Student Get Involved on Campus

Students should get involved with campus activities and work to develop a support network of friends and professors. First-generation students who are unfamiliar with college life may need a stronger support network on campus. A network makes the college experience smaller, more manageable and most importantly, it gives first-generation students a place to go for advice.

~ Sarah Schupp, Parent Resource Expert, Campus Calm

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