Support systems and services are important for all students, and they are especially vital for first-generation and international students who need an extra level of help. Peer support is key to success and academic adjustment, especially for ethnic minority and international students.1 Low-income, first-generation college students are four times as likely to quit after the first year of college as are other students.
A Ready-Made Social Safety Net
The social safety net provided by peer support encourages students to explore and try new things. Connecting them to the college’s private social network software is a valuable step, as it links them instantly to a community with peer networks, expert resources, and a safe way to become familiar with their new environment in a virtual setting that feels like home.
Who Are the First-Generation College Students?
American first-gen college students typically come from lower socioeconomic status households than other groups. Key to understanding their needs is knowing that a majority of them choose to attend schools within 50 miles of home. They are generally more reliant on the family home base for economic and/or social support, and fewer of them live on campus. Aware that first-gen students are disadvantaged in this way, faculty and advisors can match individuals with resources that bridge the gap, connecting them to the total academic experience.
Success—Knowing Where to Turn
Faculty and students alike need to know the resources available in order to boost retention rates and help more students achieve the degree they desire. Academic, faculty, and peer support services may be unexpected benefits that first-gen students are unaware of, or unaccustomed to using.
Remain sensitive to cultural gaps for international students, avoiding stereotyped references in the classroom. They may need additional help adjusting to assignments that require open, creative thinking, as opposed to the rote memorization they are trained to excel in at home. The language gap is an obvious concern, as even extensive language preparation may not help them comprehend everyday slang or the natural speed of native English speakers. Direct students to writing centers or tutoring programs for additional support in developing appropriate writing skills.
Let students know that the private social network is safe, not public, and that it is a deep resource designed for their benefit. Once students create their own profile, they can quickly locate and connect with others who share their academic, social, or personal interests, through circles, forums, community boards, and more. Instructors can devise interactive activities that require connecting to the network, encouraging students to earn rewards and recognition with special projects and levels of achievement. International students can quickly find other students from their cultural background for support and sharing experiences.
Encourage students to communicate with faculty, program directors, administrators, staff and other expert resources through the network, expanding their knowledge and research base beyond what is available in the campus library. Motivate them to share notes and knowledge through circles, and make use of tools like online chat, photo, audio, and video sharing.
Based in Irvington, Virginia, Enterprise Hive is a women owned software company that delivers innovative cloud-based social and gamification solutions for higher education and commercial organizations that unifies all constituents of the enterprise to improve outcomes and increase competitiveness. Enterprise Hive’s engagement platform, HiveSocial, offers institutions and companies an online community platform that will quickly and easily engage the enterprise in the way that today’s students, faculty, employees and customers expect. www.enterprisehive.com