Resources for Advising First-Generation Students
Angela Renee Sickles
students, with their unique needs and expectations, make up a growing
population of students on today's campuses.The
National Center for Education Statistics, as quoted by Swail, found
that almost 40% of those enrolled at our institutions were first
generation college students (Swail, p. B16). Often these students
have little family support or guidance, and, in some cases, their
attendance is resented by those closest to them. Riehl (1994, p.16)
found that 'First-generation college students do not have the benefit
of parental experience to guide them, either in preparing for college
or in helping them understand what will be expected of them after
they enroll.'For the support needed
to succeed in college, many first generation college students turn
to their academic advisors, not just for academic advice, but for
the guidance considered necessary to navigate day-to-day
generation students are defined as students not having a parent
who graduated from college with a baccalaureate degree (Thomas et
al., 1998). For these students, attending college may be their only
chance to 'make it out' or to 'break the cycle.' Consequently, they
feel the pressure to succeed but do not know the resources that
can help them do so. Riehl (1994, p.16) maintains that it is the
institution's responsibility to understand and address the needs
of first-generation college students through orientation and advisement
first-generation students seek to build a trusting relationship
with their advisors, a relationship that is based on their advisor's
understanding of their background.The
successful advisor becomes familiar with these students' backgrounds
and family lives.Was the student
raised in a single parent home? Is the student from a 'blended family'?
How many siblings are in the home and what is the student's 'birth
order' within the family? Is the student from a rural or urban area?
What types of jobs are held by the student's parent(s)? While growing
up, did the student frequently move due to military relocation,
job changes, or economic necessity?Is
the student's college attendance invoking feelings of guilt for
financial strain on the family? The answers to these questions can
be especially important in advising a first-generation student.
Pardon (1992, p. 73) has indicated that 'Parents and siblings can
frequently be nonsupportive and even obstructionist.' If a student
feels guilty about attending college or is receiving pressure from
the family to come home, the advisor must be willing, and able,
to address the issues behind the guilt and offer helpful suggests.
must have a comprehensive knowledge of the campus resources that
could help these students including programs geared for first-generation
students. This information would include any scholarships or programs
offered to first-generation students,
as well as the standard resources available to them by virtue of
just being students.Advisors should
have the contact information ofthe
person who knows the procedures and paperwork needed to apply for
these campus programs.
campuses provide programs for first-generation student s through
TRIO, a federally funded government program established by the 1965
Higher Education Act. TRIO has grown to include six outreach programs
that can help first-generation students persist and succeed inobtaining baccalaureatedegrees.
The three most prominent programs on campuses today are Upward
Bound, Talent Search, and Student Support Services.
Bound allows high school
students to obtain college credit, either through or after the
school day, on Saturdays or in summer classes with a nearby participating
college or university. These classes focus on mainstream academics
such as math, science, language arts, and foreign languages. Upward
Bound often provides mentoring, tutoring, and other supporting
services to the participants.
Search is a program that
identifies individuals with backgrounds that make them 'at risk'
for success. Once a student is identified, the program offers
assistance in understanding college 'ins and outs' including providing
counseling for academic, career and financial issues. Talent
Search can identify and work with students in middle school
age to keep them on the right track headed for college.
Support Services is a
program targets individuals who are first-generation, are from
low income families, or have disabilities. SSS helps these students
obtain admission to college and works with them through graduation
from the institution. This program often offers mentoring, career
counseling, and can help students at two-year colleges transfer
to a four-year school.
all first-generation students have TRIO sponsored services available
to them. Therefore it is imperative that academic advisors be prepared
to support and guide first-generation students. Open communication
is the key to the relationship. Being involved and interested lets
students know that you care. Komives and Woodard (2001, p.352) indicate
that 'one of the most powerful positive influences on students'
persistence in college is individual attention.' Individual
attention is also a powerful factor in ones willingness to stay
at the university.
first-generation students to use available resources to succeed.
Help students establish not just academic goals but the personal
goals needed to support their academic objectives.Hold your advisees accountable for reaching these goals.
from a first-generation student can take a lot of an advisor's time
during the student's initial college terms. However, as the months
progress, the first-generation student will depend on the advisor
less. The relationship the advisor has built with these students
will allow the student to feel more at home on the campus and be
better equipped to deal with the stresses of being the first in
their family to obtain a degree in higher education.
Angela Renee Sickles
Kansas State University
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this resource using APA style as:
A.R. (2004). Advising first-generation students. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising
Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/1st_Generation.htm