NCAN Conference Series: Supporting First-Generation College Students

This is the last in a series of four blog posts from the National College Access Network (NCAN) Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on September 15—17, 2014. These posts summarize findings from selected presentations at the NCAN Conference that provide concrete, actionable recommendations for practitioners on the following topics: increasing student awareness of “college match”; increasing STEM awareness and connecting with local businesses; structuring internships to prepare students for the workforce; and supporting first-generation college students.

Research shows that first-generation college students struggle with completing college applications, enrolling in college, and graduating. The NCAN conference hosted a session facilitated by the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO), a national non-profit organization that works to support first-generation college students on the path to and through college. CSO introduced the “I’m First” campaign to answer common student questions about the college application process and the transition to college and have partnered with colleges and universities to support first-generation college students directly. They also offer “twitter office hours” to answer student questions through tweets.

Students and administrators representing universities in Arizona discussed several strategies that have worked in supporting first-generation students on their campuses. Some students appreciated cultural groups or cohort programs that bridge the gap between home and college and provide support and encouragement. University representatives emphasized the importance of being respectful of cultural differences as well as involving families in decisions and planning. In addition, participants discussed the benefits of using technology such as e-mail and texting to remind students of social, academic, and financial opportunities and timelines; and also to reach out to them and remind them that people care about their success and are available to provide support. Lastly, session presenters recommended taking advantage of existing resources and support services on campuses or those that span across college boundaries, such as the I’m First campaign.

Clarisse Haxton is a Senior Researcher with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at AIR. 

Photo credit: Flickr.

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