Each year, thousands of young adults arrive on college campuses across the country, eager to embrace a new adventure. For many, college is the logical next step on their life path, part of a family tradition of higher education. For some, however, college is an experience they may feel wholly unprepared for, particularly because they have very little in the way of familial guidance. First-generation college students face challenges that make it more difficult to remain on the path to a degree. That’s where Student Support Services (SSS) can be a lifeline. SSS provides guidance for low-income and underserved students to not only persist but thrive in the pursuit of a degree.
Of course, college students do not live on academics and ramen noodles alone. There are other factors that make the college experience complete, including academic and social organizations. Student Support Services can help first-generation students adapt and thrive in the collegiate atmosphere.
Attracting Students to Your Program
First-generation college students have a tougher path than their more advantaged peers. Statistically, they are less likely to complete a college degree. Nearly 90% leave college within six years, without graduating. More than a quarter drop out after the first year alone.
Student Support Services can be a powerful ally for these newcomers. Most programs offer tutoring, academic advising, counseling, mentoring, and skill-building workshops. For students experiencing college for the first time, this kind of assistance is critical for long-term success. Still, many may not understand that these services are available or that they qualify for such support. Therefore, SSS administrators must make a concerted effort to attract first-generation students to their program.
Campus Outreach to First-Generation College Students
You can increase awareness of your SSS program on campus through outreach. Organizing campus-wide events will attract attention and give you the opportunity to meet students from a variety of backgrounds. Define who your program serves and present activities that will appeal to these individuals. Some ideas for events include:
- “How to Adult” Workshops – time management, budgeting, and healthy habits are all popular topics
- Scavenger Hunts – a great way to help newcomers get familiar with your campus
- Coffee Chats – enlist the help of alumni, campus leaders, and university staff to answer student questions and concerns in an informal setting
- Stress Busters – partner with other campus groups to offer fun activities like art, dance, and music.
- Meet the Mascot – encourage a feeling of belonging by giving students an opportunity to meet and take selfies with your school mascot
While the events you offer may attract students who don’t qualify for Student Support Services, don’t discount their influence. They may know dorm-mates who could benefit from your offerings!
Keeping Students Engaged in Your Program
Students who take advantage of what SSS has to offer often find that their transition to collegiate life is easier. You can keep them engaged in your program by offering a variety of touchpoints. Keep your program’s social media accounts current and active. Advertise in campus publications and take advantage of public bulletin boards. Consider starting a podcast to guide and encourage first-generation students to overcome their unique challenges. Outreach activities will get their attention, but consistent messaging can help to hold that attention.
First-generation college students need a great deal of support in acclimating to college life during the first year. After the adjustment of freshman year, however, it’s not uncommon for them to fall away from a Student Support Services program. As they build confidence in their skills and abilities, they may not feel the same need for the services SSS provides. The key to keeping these students engaged freshman year and beyond is to provide incentives.
Using a points system for earning incentives allows students to complete tasks for points and use those points for what they need or want. TRiO Perks enables you to award points by simply scanning a student ID, and accurately tracks points balances as points are accumulated. Students can select incentives based on the number of points they have available to them, and the software automatically deducts points as they are spent.
We’d love to show you how TRiO Perks can give your Student Support Services program a real boost. Let’s set up a demo!