No matter how smart or capable they are, many first-generation college students come with an immediate disadvantage before they step foot on campus. Because they’re the first in their family to attend college, these students might feel culturally different, alienated, estranged from their peers whose parents attended college. It’s no wonder, then, that many of these students are more likely to drop out than their peers. However, a new report from Reuters suggests that this achievement gap can be closed with a simple, one-hour intervention session that allows these students to simply talk about their social class backgrounds.
According to the report, researchers found that the first-generation students who attended this “diversity education” panel at an unnamed private college went on to earn higher grades and were more likely to use campus resources such as tutoring. At the panel, these first-generation students discussed how their social class backgrounds made college more difficult for them. “I didn’t want people to see me struggling with the novelty of college or thinking that anything was wrong,” a panelist shared. “Putting up such a front when I was overwhelmed by a new city, new difficult classes, making new friends was beyond hard.”
The students also learned there were resources at the school to help them succeed. After the panel, the attendees reported “less stress and anxiety, better adjustment to college life, more social engagement, and increased recognition of multiple perspectives,” Reuters reports. Encouragingly, the study also found that the achievement gap between the first-generation students who attended this session and their peers whose parents had college educations shrank by 63 percent. And that may be reason enough for colleges across the country to consider this path to keep all of our students in school.