First Generation College Students – The Important Family Connection

Hello everyone and welcome to Part II of the First Generation College Student series with EMchat! Last month I introduced you to our FirstGen student group and how it started. This time around I want to talk about some of the firstgen families I’ve met (and heard about) since our group began. My firstgen mentees come from all different family backgrounds and after spending some time with them, I quickly saw how each student was shaped and motivated by their family experiences. A common concern that most of my students have brought to the group is being able to balance their college life with their family life. Their questions and comments come from all over the spectrum:

  • “How can I help my family understand the time I have to commit to being a student?”
  • “My mom doesn’t understand that when I’m not in class, I still have obligations on campus and can’t just drop everything to come home and work at the restaurant.”
  • “Its more important to my family to have a job rather than waste money on a degree.”

Its obvious these students want their family to understand their aspirations to become a college graduate, but they don’t know how to balance it all and still make sure they keep that important connection with their loved ones. It was made clear during their struggles that we as university professional staff should make sure we include family support in our goals of working with firstgen students.

With these students’ voices taking the drivers seat, we’ve got to make sure we are supportive “side-seat drivers” and guiding them properly on their college journey. So what can you do on your campus?

  • Post helpful tips for parents and family members about supporting college students. Use the web and post brochures in key offices students visit often.
  • Host a parents panel and invite firstgen parents of juniors and seniors as the speakers. They have valuable experiences (challenges and successes) to share with other families!
  • Create a firstgen newsletter (we have one) and make sure the family knows how to get on the mailing list
  • Have a firstgen family meet and greet during Family Weekend or Little Sibs weekend (hmmmm, maybe I should do this. Good advice Yolanda. Thanks Yolanda!)

I certainly was able to understand where my students are coming from because I felt the exact same way during my college journey. I had to remember my college life was foreign to my family and I needed to take time to explain and bring them into my experiences. I had to balance helping them to understand they were still important to me and their support was always needed as I worked on becoming a college graduate. I hope this helps you and your students. Let me know your thoughts and feel free to leave a comment in the box below. Until we meet again…