AbstractStudents who identify as first generation status, are those who are the first in their nuclear families to attend a college or school of higher education.
First generation students (FGS), who likely come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, typically experience anxiety in a college environment as they face two realities – pressure from their families to succeed, as well as the presence of failure in the college setting. It is typical for first generation students to feel hesitant about starting and finishing the average four years at a college. With collegiate resources, like counselors and student success advocates available, first generation students can assimilate to the college lifestyle, dedicate time to their studies, and even venture out into their school’s respective communities. Lack of confidence has been detrimental to students of first generation status as thoughts of inferiority to their continuing generation peers are always prevalent. With guidance and a balanced work ethic, it has been proven that those who identify as first generation students can keep college within their reach.Keywords: first generation, failure, resources, confidence, guidanceThe Faltered First Generation StudentImproving the education system has created opportunity for both first generation and low income students. In a United States Congressional document, it was cited that “children from disadvantaged families struggle to access resources designed to help encourage high school completion and the pursuit of post secondary education”.
The Department of Education admits to previously falling short in its attempts to help those who were disadvantaged. “Recognizing the challenges, the federal government has created several programs to help disadvantaged students access the support necessary to realize the college degree”, the Department of Education explained (2014). The TRIO and Upward Bound programs, both implemented by the Department of Education, are proven to be the most resourceful to aid first generation students.Resources can be helpful to many college students – those that identify as first generation, however, don’t utilize them because of poor integration skills. In Recognizing Challenges and Predicting Success in First-Generation University Students, authors Alina Katrevich and Mara Aruguete concluded that, “first generation students reported having less faculty contact and less time for academic tasks” (2017). Faculty contact is integral to the success of a college student. Katrevich argues that students of first generation status are not successful because they find it difficult to forge a relationship with their professors. “Academic preparedness and contact with faculty members predicted college success for first-generation students”, Katrevich and Aruguete noted (2017).
The first generation student’s individual identity could have something to do with their success in the college setting. “Individual characteristics set the stage for goals and commitment to complete a degree program”, the 1975 Tinto’s Student Integration Model alludes (Katrevich & Aruguete 2017). Once on campus, individual characteristics interact with the universityenvironment. An individual characteristic like first generation status, directly predicts “performance and persistence in university students”, Tinto’s Model suggests (Katrevich & Aruguete 2017). Academic and social integration are key factors in the success rate of a college student, the model also describes.”Academic integration activities might include faculty–student interaction over course materials, while its social counterpart “concerns the establishment of friendship with peers and mentorship with faculty and staff”, Katrevich and Aruguete decipher (2017). First generation students have a difficult time assimilating to both domains of integration.
Tinto, as highlighted by Katrevich and Aruguete, concluded that “intervention programs should be focused on improving academic and social integration of first-generation university students, since institutions have little influence over individual characteristics”, including first generation status (2017).”First generation students are less confident in their coursework and are less likely to ask for help from faculty than their continuing generation peers”, Katrevich researched (2017). First generation students compromise their performances at universities because of the lack of academic integration. This is not a first generation student’s only downfall – social integration also comes into play. “First generation students have difficulty navigating the social environment of university” – as they are hesitant to talk to faculty and would rather get academic advice from a peer than an academic professional (2017). Katrevich concludes by saying, “under academic and social pressures, first-generation students may quickly find the stresses of coursework to be overwhelming” (2017).
In Intentions to Seek Counseling in First-Generation and Continuing-Generation College Students, author Patton Garriott says, “research suggests that first-generation college studentsreport higher levels of distress compared to their continuing generation peers” (432). To alleviate some of a first generation student’s stress, counselors and student success advocates who specifically cater to this identity group, are needed to benchmark the progress of the students they serve. “Social interactions with university personnel such as professors and advisors are associated with increased confidence, a sense of belonging, and higher grades”, Katrevich discovered (2017). In sum, advisors have the capability to positively affect the success rate of a first generation.In Students Whose Parents Did Not Go to College: Postsecondary Access, Persistence, and Attainment, Susan Choy highlights some of the reasons why first generation students leave four year institutions. Low grades, working more than 35 hours per week, as well moderate participation in campus activities are to blame, Choy discovers.
“After adjusting for these factors and also taking into account others such as financial aid, race/ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status, first-generation status was still a significant indicator of leaving before the second year”, Choy demonstrated (Choy 26). Aforementioned author Katrevich supports Choy – she writes, “it is not surprising that about one fourth (26%) of US first-generation students drop out in their first year, compared to 7% of other students” (Katrevich 42).Thomas Hebert in An Examination of High-Achieving First-Generation College Students From Low-Income Backgrounds, cites aforementioned Choy: “first-generation college students represent approximately 50% of all college students and nearly 34% of the students enrolled in 4-year institutions” (Choy 2001). He says first generation students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, “defy the stereotype that economic hardships impede strong academic performance” (Hebert 2017). Here at Hofstra, the New Opportunities at Hofstra (NOAH) program serves highly motivated students who are often of first generation status and from lowersocioeconomic backgrounds.
The NOAH program provides students with academic and social resources that will guarantee a smooth entry into life here at Hofstra University. “There are millions of young people in America’s schools, who are overcoming difficult socioeconomic circumstances to excel academically”, Hebert cites (2017). The NOAH program at Hofstra is undoubtedly a resource to students who want to do well in the classroom, but are at an economic disadvantage.At Hofstra, professionals understand that first generation students may have a hard time navigating the college scene. Hofstra assigns each student with a success team to help them along their collegiate career. The Division of Student Affairs is also immensely involved in the success rate of first generation students. A First Generation Student Committee was created to be a resource to help students who identify as FGS status.
Faculty members from a myriad of offices come together to support the first generation student body. Hofstra University understands that the college climate is changing, as education is becoming more accessible to diverse populations.Author of Expanding Access and Opportunity: How Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges Serve First-Generation and Low-Income Students, Jesse Rine says the United States education system, “must make every effort to ensure that low-income and first-generation students have access to higher education and the support systems they need to obtain a college degree” (1). Rine argues that both first generation and low income students, “receive excellent educations at smaller private colleges” as they “provide a more personalized, rigorous, and engaged college experience than larger public universities provide” (2015). Rine had no commentary on a private university like Hofstra. With the proper resources, a first generation or low income student could be successful in any college domain.
Tanjula Petty, author of Motivating First Generation Students To Academic Success and College Completion details different ways higher institutions can cater to the first generation students, in hopes that they may succeed in any college environment. “Academic and social pathways that assist first-generation students overcome inadequate preparation for college” should be integrated at every college level for first generation students, Petty believes (2014). Petty also noted “creative approaches to motivate students, such as field trips, presentations by other first-generation college students” would be beneficial for first generation students (2014).Here at Hofstra, there are field trips that take place to get the student comfortable with the Hofstra community at large. These are especially helpful because it has been discovered that “first generation students are more likely to live off campus than their non-first generation counterparts”, Lyle Gohn said in Understanding College Student Subpopulations (118).
Upperclassmen, who identify as first generation, are also available to help incoming freshman by way of mentor programs. There is hope in today’s collegiate climate, as there are solid efforts put in place to help first generation students.In conclusion, first generation students have the capacity to learn at all levels of higher education. While factors like outside life and economic disadvantages can discourage these students, they are an “increasingly significant force” entering into postsecondary education institutions, aforementioned author Tanjula Petty states (2014). Resources are integral to the success of first generation students.
As more colleges and universities learn the importance of develop more college readiness platforms, more first generation students will gain confidence about their success in college environments. Lack of confidence has been detrimental to students of first generation status as thoughts of inferiority to their continuing generation peers are always prevalent. It is possible to reverse the stigma around being a first generation status.
Most collegecampuses have realized that having a first generation student body creates a diverse environment. It goes without saying that college is indeed within reach for first generation students.