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Families of First Generation Students

With an enrollment predominantly from Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island College historically has served as a "College of Opportunity" for first-generation college students.  56% of RIC freshmen are first generation college students; among seniors, 65% of RIC students are first generation (National Survey of Student Engagement, 2014 July, /assessment/pages/nsse.aspx).

Students are considered “first generation” if their parent(s) have not attained a college degree.  Rhode Island College sponsors two programs specifically designed to assist first generation students: the Preparatory Enrollment Program (PEP) and Learning for Life (L4L).

PEP provides tutoring, mentoring, a peer support network, and individual advising to first generation and low income students.  To participate, students must apply to the program by indicating their interest in PEP in the admissions application to RIC.  For more information, visit the program’s website.

L4L provides assistance in navigating both on campus and off campus resources for students who are facing challenges on their path to graduation, including status as a first generation student.  Student participants, known as L4L Scholars, are matched with a Navigator, who meets with them regularly to check in, and offer guidance, support, and referrals.  For more information, visit the program’s website.

Tips for Families of First Generation Students

  • Remind your students to make copies of all important paperwork and to make sure to write down the name, department, date and comments of the person they are speaking to when they contact different units on campus with questions.
  • Remember that pursuing higher education does not mean that students will lose the values with which they were raised.
  • Be patient with yourselves and one another, especially since this is a learning experience for everyone (both you and your student) – you will all be learning about this transition process together!
  • Understand that college-level school work is often more time-consuming than high school work, therefore it may be difficult for students to undertake the same level of family responsibilities as they did in high school.  Preparing for group presentations, writing 10-20 page papers, reading around 200 pages each week, and studying for quizzes and tests requires many hours of concentrated effort and can be stressful.  Talk to your student about how you can support their academic success and still incorporate them into family life and commitments.  It may take some time to figure out the right balance.
  • Take a look at the Resources listed on the Parent and Family Programs website to see the programs and services available to your student.  “Getting involved on campus” or “participating in co-curricular activities” refer to joining student organizations, attending campus events, and participating in programs (Emerging Leaders, Leadership Weekend, etc.), which occur outside of the classroom.  While these experiences take up time that could otherwise be spent working or taking care of other responsibilities, co-curricular activities are highly valued in applying for jobs and graduate school, teach valuable leadership skills, and help students to make connections to campus and their peers.
  • Continue to support your student as you did throughout their K-12 education.  Your love, encouragement, and pride are the best motivators for students to succeed!

Related Resources:

Adobe PDFOutside LinkACT Guide for Parents of First Generation Students
Outside LinkFirst in the Family: Advice about College from First Generation Students 
Who We Are: First-Generation College Students Speak Out 
Academic Culture Shock: First-Generation College Students Step Up to College Work 
Becoming a Scholar: Bright Academic Futures for First-Generation Students 
I’m First: Online Community for First-Generation Students

Page last updated: April 03, 2017