#AdvocateFirstgen: Students in the Workforce

The Center / March 02, 2021

How can faculty, administrators, staff members, and student organizations #AdvocateFirstgen in employment- and workforce-related areas?

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 66% of first-generation college students were employed while enrolled in college. First-generation college students worked more hours while enrolled, and a greater percentage were employed in off-campus positions than their continuing-generation peers.

Balancing working and attending college full-time has negative implications for first-generation college students, particularly those who are considered to be from a low-income background. COVID-19 further highlighted challenges faced by many first-generation students who work as front-line and essential workers. Many of these students’ families are dependent on their wages, and students may be reluctant to change jobs especially for a short-term opportunity that can benefit their career. They may be unable to take on internships (especially if unpaid) in order to build experience connected to their career interests.

Administrators, staff, faculty members, and students can use the following tactics to maximize the value of first-generation students’ current work experience as they explore other opportunities:

Managing long work hours, traveling to off-campus workplaces, and meeting course requirements can be challenging for first-generation students. Highlighting the skills and competencies first-generation students are acquiring in any employment setting will position them for a successful transition to the workforce, even if they are not able to participate in internships, summer fellowships, or resume-enhancing experiences traditionally associated with college students. Recognizing the value of all work experiences and creating opportunities for students to showcase their skills is another way to #AdvocateFirstgen.

What strategies have helped you to successfully champion first-generation students? Share your perspective on first-generation student advocacy and pertinent policy issues across social media with #AdvocateFirstgen.


RTI International. (2019) First-generation College Students Employment. Washington, DC; NASPA. Retrieved from https:firstgen.naspa.org/files/dmfile/FactSheet-04.pdf.