From One SA Pro to Another: Understanding the Challenges of First-Generation Students

Have you ever had a student who was the first in their family to attend college?

For first-generation college students, believing they belong and can achieve their scholastic goals can be particularly challenging. This article and video in the New York Times, “First Generation Students Unite”, provides excellent insight into the experience of being the first in your family to go to college – particularly at an Ivy League School.

In the accompanying 5-minute video, you get to hear the real struggles and concerns of students who are enrolled at Ivy League schools and incredibly high achieving, but struggling with issues their peers may not understand.

Imagine how it would feel to be a first-generation student having this experience:

Ms. Barros was embarrassed during a history discussion about inequality in which the teaching fellow gave students a list of 20 items, from trust funds to college savings plans, and told them to award themselves a point for each. The instructor asked students to raise their hands as he called out totals — 10 privilege points, 11, 12 — so he could mark them on the board. “The numbers didn’t tally up” to the number of students in the class, said Ms. Barros, who with only a single point kept her hand down.

Regardless of what school your students attend (or are planning to attend),  there is opportunity to better understand the challenges our first-generation students might face.

Coaching is the perfect place to ensure students know they have someone who truly sees them for who they are, what they can accomplish, and what challenges may be unique to them.

By ensuring that these students feel that they belong, we can go a long way to supporting them in feeling that they can succeed.

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