March 8, 2021
First-generation students have always had unique sets of needs. Without a built-in network of college-savvy parents to guide them, the process of admissions and enrollment can seem overwhelming—and sometimes, overwhelmingly discouraging.
Enter COVID-19. For first-generation families, the pandemic has added another layer of complexity to an already complex process. Strained household budgets, upended schedules, travel restrictions, and safety concerns have left many families questioning whether higher education is worth it.
For colleges and universities, the charge is clear (and urgent): First-generation students and their parents need support now more than ever before. Here are six ways your institution can provide durable enrollment resources for first-generation students:
At the point of application, does your school ask prospective students if they’re the first in their families to attend college? If not, consider making it a standard inquiry. This information is critical in anticipating the needs of the student as well as understanding the broader demographics of each incoming freshman class.
Once you have the information, use it. With FERPA guidelines top of mind, welcome conversations not only students, but with their families. What questions do they have? Any concerns they might have? What factors might influence their decision-making?
In addition, every staff member involved in the enrollment process should exercise a bit more patience. This may include explaining next steps in greater detail, and working around language barriers to keep families informed and empowered.
Additionally, first-generation families deserve resources customized to their specific needs. Depending on budget constraints, these might include:
Meet first-generation students and families where they are. Host enrollment presentations at churches, community centers, and public schools. Furthermore, make sure to staff these events appropriately and reserve time for extensive Q&A sessions.
By the same token, engage current first-generation students and their parents to serve as mentors. This type support network is vital for families who have little experience navigating the complexities of enrollment, transitioning to life away from home, and accessing the full range of resources available.
According to a study published by the U.S. Department of Education, one-third of first-generation college students drop out within three years. Stem that tide by developing new ways to support first-generation students at every stage of their college career. In view of this, here are three low-cost ideas to get you started:
From strategy and planning to enrollment analysis, Stamats can help you design better services, build more effective processes, and convert prospects into enrolled students. Call or email for more information.