Support Students

CSU believes that when our First Generation students succeed, we succeed. We’ve put together some of the ways that you can support the First Generation students on campus and take part in their successes.

I've never felt more supported. This is a community that wants to build each other up.

Jordan Pinelli

Provide resources

First generation students can make informed decisions through early, clear, specific and accurate information on financial resources, academic programs, and support services. Avoid using college ‘jargon’, abbreviations, or campus-specific terms that may be unfamiliar to students and their support networks. Create or participate in opportunities to engage through outreach, recruitment, enrollment, and orientation programs.  Develop materials and presentations that also engage families and support networks.

Bring First-Gen students to campus early

Early exposure to CSU campus serves to dispel notions of exclusion and can introduce students and families to diverse career opportunities.  Through engaging and age-appropriate campus visit activities, CSU fosters a sense of belonging through a friendly and welcoming experience.  Additionally, family members are reassured about the university’s level of support and commitment to student success.  Allowing young minds to learn about your work and research can help develop the next generation of scholars and practitioners in your field.

Provide clear course expectations and a well-developed syllabus

Research shows that first generation students benefit to a greater extent from structure, including explicit classroom and academic expectations.  Create clear expectations by connecting classroom attendance and content to academic and future career success.

Be a mentor

Serving as a mentor can be done in a variety of ways.  Just a few meetings over coffee or office hours can make a world of difference.  First Generation faculty and staff can provide insights and validation of the journey to and through college.  First Generation allies can also be helpful in providing support, simplifying college jargon, and giving advice and encouragement in navigating academic and career paths.

Encourage students to get involved

Involvement leads to meaningful connections, which is particularly helpful to first generation students.  Encourage such involvement by describing the nature of campus clubs, their social and academic networking benefits, and the process to getting involved. Given the wide variety of involvement options, what matters is finding a connection to one place where first generation students can belong.

Empower First Generation students

A great way to empower first generation students is by celebrating and appreciating what they bring to our campus.  Participate in or organize events and programs that highlight and recognize academic success and that include family participation.  Also, wear and/or provide first generation swag as a way to empower first generation students that CSU is indeed a great place to be!

Institutionalize the commitment to First-Gen Students

In 1984, CSU became the first university in the country to provide financial awards to first generation college students through a commitment from the institution’s leadership and governing body.  Today, CSU continues its commitment through established practices and resources designed to increase student success.  Integrating this commitment to all areas of the university will elevate the level of first generation student success.

Share stories

Stories of first generation college journeys resonate with students in powerful ways.  Students relate to the challenge, the success, and the affirmation of your story to their own experience.  Think about your journey and identify themes and insights that you can relate in genuine and affirming ways.

Highlight your First Generation pride

If you are first generation, make it known to students by defining what first generation means and share your personal story at the beginning of the semester.  Another way to find a point of connection is by writing “First Generation College Graduate” as part of your email signature line.  Students are more likely to connect with you through your shared experience.

Recognize and celebrate the unique talents and strengths of first-gen students

Connect first generation status to celebration and recognition of resiliency and cultural capital.  First generation students have a host of life experiences and problem-solving skills that can translate to success on a college campus. Recognize and support the role family plays in the life of first generation students, and engage family members in orientation and recognition events.

Collaborate with campus partners to support student success

Look for ways to collaborate with campus partners to support first generation student success. First generation students benefit from a network of mentors and resources. Reach out to programs such as the Academic Advancement Center (TRIO/Student Support Services) program at CSU to learn more about best practices and programs in place for first generation students.

Review, engage, measure

Review current engagement initiatives, policies and systems focused on first generation students. Provide continual engagement and professional development for faculty and staff regarding first generation student success.  Create opportunities for discussions in and across departments and units to foster greater engagement and support for faculty and staff in their efforts to increase first generation student success.  Utilize data to inform strategic and diversity plan initiatives and to measure progress and inform practice.