Resources for Teaching First-Generation Students

Leaving home for college can be overwhelming. Many students, including First-Gen Warriors, feel confused about academic and social expectations on campus. 

Being first-generation means that they are the first person in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. Over 3,000 undergraduates, or 39.6% of students at WSU, are First-Gen Warriors. 

When compared to students whose parents have a 4-year bachelor’s degree, First-Gen Warriors are more likely to:

  • Be equally supported and encouraged by their parents
  • Be transfer students
  • Be female
  • Be low-income
  • Be juggling academics and a job
  • Be commuting or living off campus

When asked how professors could support their success, First-Gen Warriors provided the following suggestions.

Get to Know the First-Gen Warriors

Set up a required “meet and greet” with each of your students the first few weeks of class so you can get to know students.

Asking an instructor or administrator for help is intimidating, so try to put students at ease. Share something personal about yourself or mention if you are a first-generation student yourself. 

If you were a first-generation student, you can be a wonderful role model to the many first-gen students at WSU. 

Help Students Stay Engaged

Offer a way to earn points for participation or attendance to help engage first-gen students in class.

Assign more group quizzes and projects so students can demonstrate their work in ways other than tests.

Spend time in class going over answers to exams, quizzes, and homework. Posting grades frequently on D2L Brightspace is important, but it’s even more helpful to ensure your students understand the content they might have missed on their work. 

Be Clear About Class Policies & Provide Feedback

Post office hours outside of your door so students know when and where they can meet with you.

Tell students how you want to be addressed– formally or informally. For example, first-gen students don’t necessarily know the difference between Dr., Professor, or Instructor.

Use D2L Brightspace and update grades often so students know how they’re doing in your class. 

Connect with Other Campus Resources 

Understand that some students may not realize they are first generation, or the significance of being a First-Gen Warrior. 

Tell students more about campus resources – or even better – require that they use these resources as part of a graded assignment for class.

Understand that parents of First-Gens want to help their students, they may just not know how. If parents contact you, direct them to the proper resources on campus.

The resources I use most on campus are TRIO Student Support Services and the library. The library is the go-to place when I need a study spot, have a paper to write or need to find a tutor. TRIO has helped me in multiple ways from deciding on housing, looking at my transfer options when I didn’t get into the nursing program and to celebrating with me when I was accepted to the nursing program. They really helped me with the transition from high school to college and are now as I transition out of college into job searching.


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