3 ResLife Pro Quick Tips for Working with First Generation Students

Roompact’s “Quick Tips” series highlights ideas and suggestions you can put into your practice as either a professional staff or student staff member working in residence life and education. Click to read more from the series.

While each institution defines what it means to be a first generation student differently, the overarching theme reflects an individual who is the first in their family or household to attend a higher education institution. Though some colleges and universities categorize students whose parents attended some college or university as first generation, others do not. Regardless of the specificities, the following three quick tips will provide you with a foundation for success when working with first generation students.

1. Don’t take anything for granted.

Research has shown that generational knowledge exists. Whether it’s knowing that you need to sign up for the ACT or SAT ahead of time or having last year’s tax return easily accessible when filing for FAFSA, these things are learned through experience and often, trial and error. When working with first generation students, demonstrate understanding and don’t take this knowledge for granted – be open and accessible with this learned information and share it with others. 

2. Build communities of support.

As student affairs professionals, we know that student belonging is an important indicator for not only student success, but student retention. This is particularly true for first generation students. For this reason, it is integral to foster supportive communities for these student populations. In doing so, you will create support networks and information-sharing hubs for students, thus increasing student engagement and students’ understanding of campus knowledge and resources.

3. Remember to focus on financial access.

Like many college students, first generation students are often still learning about financials and are developing subsequent insight to this knowledge. For this reason, it is important to maintain visibility surrounding financial access to programs and services with which students may interact. Financial access is a barrier for many students, so keeping this in mind while working with first generation students will help to provide you and them with a strong foundation for success. 

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