Only 10.9 percent of low-income students who are first in their family to attend college achieve a Bachelor's Degree within six years, according to Pell Institute data.1 This contrasts starkly with 24.1 percent for non-first-generation low-income students and 54 percent for students who are neither first-generation nor low-income. First-generation students face additional obstacles for various reasons, including absence of role models and social support, insufficient academic preparation, lack of specialized academic support, greater financial burdens than other students, and language barriers. Career colleges can help alleviate some of these factors by adopting measures to assist first-generation students.
Counseling, Mentoring, and Social Support
Academic institutions that boast high first-generation graduation rates typically provide strong support that includes proactive counseling, mentoring from senior students and professors, and social support from groups of fellow students. Such resources can provide first-generation students with motivation and exposure to the college environment as well as information and guidance. School orientation programs should actively introduce students to these programs and encourage their use, and counselors and other staff should be trained to make these students aware of the resources available to them.
First-generation students might be less academically prepared than other students and in more need of remedial classes to succeed, according to College Board research.3 In particular, they are less likely to have taken algebra, making them academically unprepared for careers involving science, technology, engineering, and math. Colleges can offer academic guidance, orientation classes, coursework, and tutoring resources to help meet the needs of these students.
First-generation students are less likely than other students to be informed about the cost of attending college, as well as less likely to receive help from their schools or families when applying for college, the College Board also found. Colleges can help offset this by communicating college costs to first-generation students and making them aware of available financial aid resources. Financial aid advisors should both point students towards resources such as FAFSA and warn them about common scams, such as attempts to charge them for scholarship searches.
Career Guidance and Job Placement Assistance
First-generation students continue to face challenges when entering the job market after graduation, and colleges should help equip them to meet these challenges. Many first-generation students lack experience with how to translate their academic skills into marketable job skills. Colleges can help fill this gap by providing resources such as guidance counseling, resume-writing seminars, job-hunting assistance, and internship programs in partnership with local businesses and other supportive groups.
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Resources: Photo Credit (1) 6-Year Degree Attainment Rates for Students Enrolled in a Post-Secondary Institution (2) First-Generation College-Goers: Unprepared and Behind (3) First Generation Students: College Aspirations, Preparedness and Challenges