For many students, the transition to college life can be very stressful, with both academic and social adjustments to life beyond high school and home. First-generation students have worked hard to be in college, and they sometimes struggle to negotiate their priorities with those of their families. These students find themselves struggling with family support since the latter sometimes do not understand the the rigor of college life. If students are failing, are in danger of failing your class, or are otherwise struggling academically, consider some of the ideas and resources below. If you have an approach to contribute, please email Adriana Signorini.
- Recognize students struggle academically for different reasons - some are academic, some are social and some are familial. Encourage students with personal, private difficulties to meet with you. Recognize that you may have to reach out several times before a student will respond.
- For more general academic problems, solicit student feedback in order to reveal and address differences between student and faculty expectations. Sources of feedback include the SATAL program, mid-course evaluations, or ask a supportive colleague to observe your classroom to provide feedback in relation to one or more of your concerns.
- Direct students to resources for developing academic study skills or important life skills. Gently encourage accountability, for example, by asking students about their experiences in workshops or at tutoring. For information on available support services visit the assuming personal responsibility , time-management , note-taking and other pages on this website.
- See also the resources on this site related to minimizing academic struggles by making expectations clear. Articulate your expectations in multiple formats and forums, returning to them regularly throughout the semester.
- Administer mid-course evaluations (or informal in-class surveys). These mid-semester evaluations are an effective way to establish dialogue with students about expectations and potential changes. The following set of evaluation samples encourages students to reflect on habits and take ownership over their learning: complete survey or abridged version ; this is meant to be a resource that is adapted to faculty needs.
Student Support Services
- If the student has anxiety about fitting in socially, recommend peer mentoring.
- If the student mentions chronic health problems that interfere with class attendance, direct them to Student Health Services.
- If the student expresses worries about depression or expresses signs that may lead to such an illness, direct or walk them over to Counseling and Psychological Services .
- If you have concerns about how to respond to a student or what signs to look for, review Counseling and Psychological Services' online materials specifically for facutly .
Readings and Resources
- Basic Differences between First-Generation and Non-First-Generation Students
- NILOA article: Faculty Tips for First-Generation Students
- University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill. Active learning in Large Science Classes benefits black and first-generation college students most
- edSurge Transforming the Lecture Space . Matthew Stoltzfus
- The New York Times: Colleges Reinvent Classes to Keep More Students in Science .
- Eddy, S. and Hogan K., 2014. Getting unde the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work? Life Sciences Education. Vol 3, 453-468.
- Promoting Student Metacognition
- Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams , by Alfred Lubrano. It's a great perspective on first-gen experience from various cultural and social backgrounds and experiences.
- This Fine Place, So Far From Home , edited by C. L. Barney Dews and Carolyn Leste Law, a collection of essays by academics chronicling their experiences as first-gen students.
- Teaching tips to help underprepared students learn more .
- Today's students may be emotionally unprepared