Book Reviews

Book by Vickie L. Harvey and Teresa Heinz Housel (Eds.).
Review By: Victoria Budd
Director, Bachelor of General Studies
Boise State University

She came to my office for advising.  She was a first-generation college student (FGS).  But did I know the right questions to ask?  Did I know the specific needs these students have – different from a traditional college student?

  • If no one in her family has been to college who will she draw upon to assist her in the logistical demands of becoming a college student?
  • If she comes from a culture that does not value college, where will she find support?  How will she feel confident in her decision and ability to be successful if she does not receive support from those closest to her?

The book is rich in personal examples of FGS and their unique experiences.  As an advisor it made me reflect upon the needs of my advisees and ponder how often I advised students, never asking if they were FGS.  Asking this question alone brings more questions to ask.

FGS have unique challenges.  This short, easy-to-read book addresses a holistic approach focusing on the “whole student” (p. 2).  While the traditional college student also deals with social, academic, emotional and financial issues (p.3), FGS students have unique challenges.  With no one in their support network to assist with these issues, FGS heavily rely on university resources.  If we want FGS to be successful as an advisor, it is important to know what these university resources are and encourage FGS students to utilize them.  It may be the case of the student not knowing what they don’t know.  Harvey and Heinz alert advisors to the unique challenges of FGS and point them to resources to assist.

Harvey and Heinz separately address FGS students going to graduate school and undergraduate school.  As more and more employers are requiring advanced degrees, FGS realize the need to attend.  They often enter college with more barriers, “often lacking reading, writing and oral communication skills which frequently lead to poor retention rates” (p7).  Many do not feel like they fit in to the college culture.  They think they are “expected” to behave differently at school than at home.  This push-pull can be emotionally draining.  Couple that with the lack of support from their family network and it is a path to failure if not addressed.  Harvey and Heinz address Learning Communities as one possible solution (p. 9).

As a graduate student, Harvey and Heinz address the unique challenges and lack of experience many FGS encounter.  As an advisor these questions help create success.  In many cases a good mentor helps the student successfully complete the degree.  The authors identify specific questions the student and mentor should ask regarding graduate school (19).

The authors address specific populations such as Latina, African American and Native American.  Each culture offers differences FGS address.  TRIO programs have a unique influence on FGS (p. 33).

Harvey and Heinz do a nice job balancing research to support their findings with personal stories and support from advisors and students.  They offer practical suggestions to support advisors of FGS.  I found the book to be reflective and insightful.  As a result of reading the book I find myself asking new, better, different questions in my advising sessions.  Successful advisors need to ponder and integrate FGS student issues into their advising sessions if they want to ensure successful college completion.  Harvey and Heinz assist advisors in doing so.


Faculty and First-Generation College Students: Bridging the Classroom Gap Together (New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 127) (2011). Book by Vickie L. Harvey and Teresa Heinz Housel (Eds.). Review by Victoria Budd. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 128 pp., $29.00, (paperback). ISBN: 978-1-1181-4214-1

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