Addressing the Needs of First-Generation College Students

October 29, 2019
By: Kristen O'Reilly

Worcester State is exploring programming that will specifically address the needs of students who are in the first generation of their families to go to college. Almost 50 percent of Worcester State’s Fall 2019 incoming class identified as first-generation college students, a demographic that is expected to grow in the coming years.

The first event to kick off the effort is a reception on Monday, Nov. 4, 1 to 3 p.m., in the Lancer Loft of the Student Center. All first-generation students are invited to meet and network with other students who may be facing similar challenges. Fall-themed snacks, such as hot cider, pumpkin whoopie pies, and apple crisp will also be available at this free event.

Research shows that students who are the first in their family to go to college can struggle academically and socially, and they often graduate at a lower rate than peers whose families are more familiar with college life. Academic advising becomes even more essential for first-gen students, who are less likely to know about, or take advantage of, available resources like faculty office hours and counseling services, according to Dawn Eades, associate dean of student engagement.

“We want to help students address these issues, and show them that they aren’t alone,” she says. “Others are probably having the same struggles and we hope events like this reception will start to create essential informal support systems.”

Eades hopes some attendees will become part of an advisory group that will guide the creation of future programming, which may include, for example, a panel of first-gen upperclassmen or alumni who can offer tips on how to be successful.

“We also want to educate the campus community about what these students are facing so we can provide a safe and welcoming place for them to succeed,” says Eades.

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