How Parents Can Help First Generation College Students Succeed
Diversity in Education Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Jul 23, 2010
Students often believe that getting accepted into college is the biggest challenge they will face in their college lives (Venezia, Kirst, & Antonio, 2003). They soon realize that they must adjust to increased expectations from faculty, develop strategies to meet greater academic demands, and learn how to manage the newfound freedoms of college (Kirst, 2004; Roe Clark, 2005; Smith & Wertlieb, 2005; Venezia et al.).
Many students experience difficulties transitioning from high school to college because they are unaware of the expectations placed on them and aren’t equipped with strategies for success on campus (Alexson & Kemnitz, 2004; Roe Clark, 2005; Venezia et al., 2003). In one study on the topic, college students reported they had to change their “high school ways to college ways” in order to meet the demands of college (Roe Clark, p. 305).
Although all students face difficulties, research suggests that first-generation college students might have a more difficult time adjusting to college because their parents do not have first-hand experience dealing with the demands of college life. Although the following supportive strategies might be relevant to all parents, they might be particularly helpful for parents who do not have any college experience.
Successful Strategies For The First Year Of College
We conducted a study holding group interviews with an ethnically diverse group of students (36.4% White, 40.9% Hispanic, and 22.7% Black) attending a public university in Texas. We asked students to talk about strategies they used to achieve success during their first year in college.
Upon arrival at college, many students reported feeling prepared to do well academically, but found that they had underestimated the amount of work necessary to be successful. Other students reported that the ways in which they studied in high school were no longer effective in college.
Students reported a number of strategies that contributed to their success during their first year:
- Attending class regularly.
- Taking classes with friends.
- Sharing class notes.
- Participating in study groups.
- Reading before class.
- Meeting with professors or teaching assistants.
When prompted further, many students admitted that they did not necessarily employ these strategies. Students stated that major distractions included the Internet, friends, and Facebook.
They discussed trying to attend to their academics while at the same time minimizing distractions from their social lives. In order to maintain this balance, students described the importance of managing their time appropriately. Although students were able to describe why time management and responsibility were important, they admitted to often procrastinating on their schoolwork.
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