The Long Road to College from Rural America (page 2)

By — Diversity in Education Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010

What You Can Do As A Parent

  • Parents are crucial for helping first generation students succeed in college. Students need support navigating the path to and through their college education.
  • Take your child to visit college campuses. Even short visits provide youth with a sense of belonging in a college setting.
  • If you feel unsure about guiding your own child's process, talk to his or her school about finding someone who can.
  • If you are more familiar with the test-taking and application process, offer to help other first generation students.
  • Prepare your student to be away from home by spending time with them in larger towns and cities. Any practice your student has in places similar to where he or she plans to attend college will help him or her feel more comfortable once there.
  • Assist your child as much as possible with any adult decisions he or she needs to make. Even if you are not supporting your child financially, assistance with financial aid forms, apartment leases, and how to manage utility bills can help ease the transition.

What You Can Do As A Teacher or Rural School Administrator

  • Provide as many opportunities as possible for campus visits. These should include sporting events and state club meetings such as 4-H or FFA. Special content area camps like computer or engineering camps, as well as sports camps, are also important.
  • Encourage faculty to make college campuses a stop on field trips or travel for sports.
  • Mentor students through the test-taking and application process. Take advantage of the strong teacher-student relationships and guide students through the process. Identify students who will be first generation college students and make sure they have all the information they need to apply to schools.
  • Bring current college students to campus. Colleges generally have long breaks so take advantage of alumni who are currently attending college and invite them to share their experiences and advice.
  • Be proactive about getting college admissions counselors from a variety of colleges and universities to visit your school. Encourage students to hear their presentations and ask questions.
  • Work with college admissions counselors to facilitate campus visits for your students.
  • Encourage groups of students and parents to visit college campuses together, allowing youth to envision their future away from home.


Howley, C. W. (2005). Remote possibilities: Rural children's out of school activities and educational aspirations. Unpublished Dissertation, Temple University.

See: Kraft, C. L. (1991) What makes a successful Black student on a predominantly White campus. American Educational Research Journal, 28(2), 423-443.; Stanton-Salazar, R. D., Dornbusch, S. M. (1995) Social capital and the reproduction of inequality: Information networks among Mexican-origin high school students. Sociology of Education, 68(2), 116-135.

Moschetti, R., & Hudley, C. (2008). Measuring Social Capital Among First-Generation and Non-First-Generation, Working-Class, White Males. Journal of College Admission(198), 25-30.

Devora Shamah is a PhD candidate in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University. Her research interests focus on rural youth and schools. Specifically she is examining how growing up in a rural place shapes the educational and occupational aspirations of youth along with their sense of purpose. Before returning to pursue her doctorate she taught at-risk middle school youth. Ms. Shamah holds a Bachelors degree in Communications from UC-San Diego and a Masters in Teaching from the University of Chicago. She holds an American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women.

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