First Generation Students
Who is a First Generation College Student?
First Generation College Students are a large and diverse population who face a unique set of circumstances that can impact their educational experience at college. It includes students for whom one or both parents either never attended or did not complete college. First Generation College Students are:
- More likely to be students of color, immigrants, from a lower socioeconomic background and/or speak English as a second (or third) language
- More likely to be older than a traditional aged college student (18-22)
- More likely to attend college part time
- More likely to have traits of resiliency, self-efficacy, high levels of responsibility and high levels of conscientiousness
First Generation College Students often manage competing demands of home and school life and may feel pressure to excel as the first person in their family to attend college. It may be difficult to relate to other students who do not come from a similar background, and many first generation college students feel out of place (i.e., “imposter syndrome”).
Find more information on first generation students, visit the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion's webpage I Am First Gen.
First Generation Discussion Group
Cal Poly Counseling Services has teamed up with Student Academic Services (SAS) to offer a credit/no credit course through the Psychology and Child Development Department specifically focused on First Generation College Students of Color. Learning occurs through dialogue and discussion on topics such as intersectionality of different identities (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.) and how these identities affect the college experience. Students are encouraged to discover new strengths and potential to help them thrive at Cal Poly, in addition to learning more about resources on campus that are integral to any student’s success.
Students who have completed the course indicate they:
- Established a sense of safety in group
- Felt connected to group members
- Were empowered by each other and guest speakers
- Discovered new strengths and developed resiliency
- Learned about own challenges and resources available
- Received validation and support from group
- Redefined success
For more information about the course, please contact Dr. Ana Cabezas, First Generation Students Coordinator.
Information for Parents and Families of First Generation College Students
One of the most helpful things you can do to help your loved one succeed in college is provide support! Even if you did not complete college, there are many other ways you can be supportive and model the skills it takes to succeed even when something is difficult. Consider some of the following activities:
- Attend Open House to become knowledgeable about the resources/services available to your student. Parent and family support is essential in your student’s academic success!
- Remind your student that it is okay to ask for help. Encourage them to become acquainted with the resources on campus.
- Remind yourself that pursuing higher education does not mean that students will lose the values they were raised with.
- Be compassionate with your student! Remember that they may not be able to come home as often or contribute to the family the same way they did before. School is a full time job!
- Learn about the college process and what to expect.
- Be patient with yourselves and one another, especially since this is a learning experience for everyone (both you and your student) – you will all be learning about this transition process together!
- Listen to your student. By providing them with emotional support, you are contributing towards their success.
- Allow your student the freedom to explore their interests, including their major and career of choice.
- Remind your student that no one is perfect and that making mistakes can be valuable life lessons. If your student has a difficult course or quarter, there are many resources on campus to help. They can still successfully graduate college with appropriate support.
- Emphasize the importance of self-care. Self-care is important in maintaining a healthy balance in their daily lives and essential in preventing burnout.