For a first-generation student conference at Brown University, I compiled a list of first-generation student programs throughout the country. Through interviews with dozens of school administrators, I came up with a robust list of programs. Hope this is useful for others too!
Amherst College: Amherst has a First-Generation Coordinator for first-generation and low-income college students. The staff member hosts first-gen mixers and orientation week events for first-gen students. Amherst also has a mentorship program for first-year, first-gen students. In addition to that, Amherst has a senior expense fund, which provides graduating seniors with $400 to buy clothes for interviews and to cover other senior year expenses.
Angelo State University: The Multicultural Center at Angelo State University offers a variety of educational programs for first-generation students. The First Generation Host Family Program is one helpful resource for those first-generation students who are not from the San Angelo area. The FG Host Family Program was developed in 2008 and it pairs first-generation students with local host families to help them transition into university life. Since 2014, the program has had 48 students and 34 families actively participating. The ASU Multicultural Center also offers first-generation students with other programs, such as the First Generation Living Community, in which the first-generation students have an opportunity to live on a floor that is designed specifically to provide these students with unique resources and the guidance of a Community Mentor. The Center also has the First Generation RAMS Mentoring Program, which pairs incoming first-generation students with other first-generations students who have been on campus a while and know the campus and its resources; thus, providing educational guidance, opportunities for social development, and an easier transition into the campus.
Boston University: Through First Generation Connect, Boston University’s University Service Center (USC) serves as a resource for first-gen students to ensure a smooth and successful transition from high school to college life and beyond. The program aims to celebrate the achievements of first-gen Terriers and provide them with a “home base” as soon as they are admitted to Boston University. The program hosts welcome receptions in the summer for new students and their families and events at the start of each semester to welcome students back to campus. During the academic year, the program sponsors workshops and social events, sends out a monthly newsletter, and highlights events of interest. There are a number of volunteer positions available that allow students to work on programming, publicity, and social media. First gen students, alumni, and faculty/staff are also spotlighted throughout the year.
California State University, Stanislaus: Founded in 1986, the Faculty-Mentor program pairs first-generation college students with a faculty member. CSU Stanislaus designs the curriculum and has faculty go through a stringent training to participate in the program, clarifying their educational and career goals and in relating personally to the University and its mission. Both mentors and mentees join in on the workshops.
Mentors participate in on-going training which includes the review and history of the program, team building, cultural awareness, understanding diversity and interpersonal strategies for improved communication. Mentors meet with their protégés on campus and participate in co-curricular activities provided by the program. These structured activities include annual 3-day retreats, on-campus mini-retreats, outdoor excursions, theatre performances, concerts, lecture series, visits to other university campuses, job fairs, and other field trips. At least once a semester mentors get together to discuss upcoming activities and provide feedback on their personal mentoring experiences. The Faculty Mentor Program at CSU Stanislaus has been very successful and continues to have a high graduation and retention rate.
Clemson University: The Clemson First Generation Success Program offers a variety of programming for first-gen students at the university. First-gen students are invited to a 1-week summer preview program to help them acclimate to campus. Students may also choose to live in a residential community just for first-gen students. In addition to that, students are paired with a first-gen upperclassmen mentor. Socials, daily study halls, a newsletter, and workshops are offered throughout the school year.
Colby College: The First Generation to College Connections Mentor Program at Colby pairs first-gen students with upperclassmen first-gen students. In addition to that, the college offers an emergency fund and a first-gen resource guide. To help students network with first-gen students, there is a welcome social at the beginning of the year. Graduating first-gen students are invited to a ceremony at the end of the year. The administration is looking to expand the program and is starting an advisory committee to talk about first-gen students. A sustained advisory group is meant to engage faculty on the experiences of first-gens/students of color.
Georgetown University: Since its founding in 2004, the Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP) has been a vehicle for both financial and programmatic support for over 1000 students, 640 of whom are current undergraduates, and 70% of who are first-generation college going. GSP’s strong network of alumni, faculty, staff and peer mentors connects students to resources and opportunities that help them thrive at Georgetown and beyond. GSP aims to normalize the college experience for first gen students. To help ease the transition into an elite four-year university, prior to their enrollment the office provides extensive communication to incoming students including phone calls, a mail college survival packet, and a 45 person summer pre-orientation program. During the school year, GSP provides extensive programming including community events, individual advising, career assistance, and additional financial resources.
Loyola Marymount University: The First to Go Program offers a variety of different support systems for first-generation college students. Students in the program are paired with a faculty or staff mentor, given the option of taking a writing workshop, and offered other co-curricular immersion experiences. There is currently a first-gen club, which also has its own programming. More exclusively, the First to Go program offers the Scholars Program for a select number of first-year, first-gen students. Students in this program take at least two classes together each semester, including a one-unit seminar on the first-generation experience, and participate in a weeklong orientation program.
Scripps College: The First-Generation @ Scripps program launched in 2010 as a pre-orientation program for first-gen students and has since grown to include programming and resources throughout the school year. In addition to having administrative and faculty support, two student interns assist in the programming. The program includes student-faculty lunches, a first-gen newsletter, monthly workshops, and a mentoring program.
Stanford University: Stanford’s Diversity and First Gen Office offers programming for first-gen students throughout the school year. About 15% of Stanford students are first-gen, with large representation among Latino and Native American students. Less than 50% of first-gen students are low-income on campus. Though the office is still growing in visibility, it is developing partnerships with different offices throughout the university. The office currently hosts a welcome dinner, faculty lunches, diversity trainings for offices, and a mentoring program. It frequently partners with the Stanford’s First-Generation Low-Income Partnership, the student group on-campus.
Texas Tech University: PEGASUS, Pioneers in Education: Generations Achieving Scholarship & Unprecedented Success, is a recruiting and retention initiative on the Texas Tech University campus that provides support for first-generation college students in their first year by facilitating their transition into the university community. The program provides intrusive academic consulting, peer mentoring, a transition and skills development workshop series, as well as community building activities and weekly study sessions in order to increase academic success, retention and graduation rates. Second Year Success (SYS) is dedicated to assisting first-generation college students through the transition from the freshman to sophomore years by supporting academic success, providing educational resources and support services, promoting major and career exploration, and encouraging campus and community relationships through intentional programming and event collaboration. The PEGASUS Learning Community provides a unique experience for first-generation college students participating in the PEGASUS Program. Students residing in the learning community are also given the opportunity to take specific courses through the Freshman Interest Group course selection. This component allows first-generation students to live together in an environment supporting their academic, personal and professional success.
University of Central Florida: UCF’s Multicultural Academic Support Services offers 40-50 workshops each semester for first-generation students. The programming supports the academic success and career planning of first-generation students. The office offers a first-generation scholarship, which is tied to workshop attendance. If students attend an average of 10 workshops each semester, they become eligible to receive the scholarship by way of an application process. In addition to the scholarship and workshops, the program hosts outside speakers on campus and also sponsors lunch for students and their professors. Students are recruited by way of orientation presentations, social media and mailings.
University of Cincinnati: Gen-1 is a residence house for first-generation, pell-eligible students. It currently boasts a 92 percent retention rate among first-year students returning as sophomores. Though the Gen-1 is comprised of mostly 1st and 2nd years, upperclassmen may be able to stay in the house depending on individual need. The Gen-1 buildings are laid out with common areas, living rooms, study rooms with computers, and a library space. Three resident advisors live in the houses full time and three full-time staff members serve as mentors/advisors. Even when students don’t live in the house, they can participate in the Gen-1 non-residential program. 90 residents and 30 non-residential students participate in Gen-1.
UNC Chapel Hill: A 2004 retention study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) showed that low-income and first-gen students were less likely than their peers who were not first generation college students and/or low-income to graduate. The study inspired Carolina Firsts – a set of programs and initiatives designed to encourage the success of first generation college students supported by the Office of Undergraduate Retention and New Student Carolina Parent Programs. About 20% of undergraduates are first-gen students. Since the 2004 retention study the four-year graduation rate for first-generation college students at UNC-CH has risen by approximately 4%. Carolina Firsts holds a welcome dinner for first-gens, a homecoming to celebrate students and families, and a graduation celebration. Their website features a directory of advocates, which lists faculty/staff who went through training to become an advocate for first-gen students. UNC currently has more than 250 trained advocates who serve as resources for first-gen students. Each advocate receives a decal for their office door that indicates that they are an advocate. They are also encouraged to showcase their advocate status on their syllabi. An undergraduate student group, also called Carolina Firsts, is mentored by the professional staff in the Office of Undergraduate Retention and hosts their own programming for their peers. UNC recently received a grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s First in the World competition to focus on first-gen student support. The grant will be divided among several different programs that will benefit first-gen students.
University of Florida: The Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program provides full scholarships for first-generation, low-income students, admitted to the University of Florida. The program supports 300 scholars each year and has supported 3,000 students to date. 25% of incoming class is first-gen each year. First-year students are provided with peer mentoring and workshops. Even though the program is for Machen Scholars, they invite all first-gens to programming. Workshops are offered to students in each year and are tailored to the needs of students in each class year. The program has a staff of 3-full time staff members and 4 part time staff. The program also supported the First Generation Student Organization, which holds a first-gen empowerment week, first-gen welcome, and the first-gen summit. To further support its first-gen population, the University of Florida has launched an initiative to raise $100 million for this initiative.
University of Redlands: The school offers two 1-week summer bridge program sessions for first-generation and low-income students. Admission into the program is by invite-only. In addition to that program, they offer a mentorship program which pairs first-generation college students with a mentor their first semester. All participants meet weekly for class during the semester-long program and also attend a variety of outings. Outside of their weekly meetings, mentees and mentors meet 1 on 1 each week.
Vassar College: Vassar has a 4-day pre-orientation program for about 40 first-generation and low-income students. During this program, the students meet different campus administrators and their student mentors and attend mock classes. The intent of the program is to acclimate students to the Vassar environment and to help them build their social network. The program has also expanded to include military veterans.
Wake Forest University: The Magnolia Scholars program was founded in 2009 and offers intensive advising and individual support to 30 incoming first-gen students each year. Students are provided with faculty mentors, workshops, socials, and many other opportunities tailored just for first-gen students. The program offers a comprehensive pre-orientation program tailored to the concerns of first-generation students. During pre-orientation students are introduced to university resource offices, and they register with the study abroad and career development offices. During the first year, scholars meet with the director three times a semester and continue to meet (though fewer times) throughout college. Last fall, Wake Forest launched First in the Forest, which is a program for all first-gen students. A shorter pre-orientation program is offered to participants and programming is also provided during the year.
Williams College: Williams has a Dean of First Generation Initiatives, the only one of its kind at peer institutions. The dean organizes a variety of events throughout the school year. A pre-orientation program offers students and parents the opportunity to become acquainted with the college campus. In the fall, the dean has a meet and greet for first-gen students to help forge connections on-campus. At the end of the year, there is a graduation dinner for first-gen students. To incorporate the student voice in programming, the dean also runs a first-generation advisory board.