Charmaine Troy, Ph.D., Virginia Tech / The Center / December 17, 2020

The transition from high school to college for first-generation college students can be filled with uncertainty and questions about the institutional resources available that will help them succeed. It is important for first-generation students to connect their transition and experiences in college to their majors through mentorship, programmatic opportunities, and campus resources. At Virginia Tech, the First-Generation Student Support program was launched in August 2019 to help first-generation students navigate this transition and to advance first-generation student success. The mission of First-Generation Student Support is to advance first-generation student success through partnerships that contribute to academic success, leadership development, and through services that build community, increase student engagement, and promote retention. Virginia Tech First-Generation Student Support provides this support through intentional high impact programming.

Upon their arrival to Virginia Tech, all first-generation students are added to the first-generation student listserv that has been created by First-Generation Student Support. Through this listserv, first-generation students are made aware of opportunities, campus resources, and events. With approximately 17% of our incoming fall class identifying as first-generation, we offer a variety of support programming. One of the programs that First-Generation Student Support offers is the Hokies First Peer Mentoring Program. The Hokies First Peer Mentoring Program is a mentoring program for first-generation, first-year and second-year students. Hokies First connects students with an experienced upperclassman who will serve as a role model, mentor, and resource as they transition to Virginia Tech. Peer mentors provide a strong intellectual and social foundation for incoming students that will enhance their personal and professional growth throughout their education.

It is important for first-generation students to connect their transition and experiences in college to their majors through mentorship, programmatic opportunities, and campus resources.

Some of the challenges faced by first-generation college students include adjustment to college and family achievement guilt. First-generation college students may also experience socioeconomic issues in addition to those challenges. The combination of those challenges and experiences can lead to mental health issues among first-generation college students. Depression has also been linked to dropping out of school. If continued, mental health problems can affect a student's energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance. Therefore, we created a first-generation student support group in collaboration with Cook Counseling Center. The first-generation student support group provides a safe space where students can share their experiences at Virginia Tech with one another.

Looking forward to Fall 2021, First-Generation Student Support will be launching GenerationOne, a living-learning community for first-generation students at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech’s commitment to increasing representational diversity highlights the importance of recruiting, supporting, and retaining first-generation students. First-Generation Student Support has developed a living-learning community (LLC) for first-generation students as part of its ongoing commitment to resources contributing to first-generation student success. This multi-generational LLC will offer opportunities for first-generation students to connect with each other while faculty and staff offer support and help build a community celebrating the first-generation identity. In addition to the GenerationOne living-learning community, VT First-Gen Allies, an informal faculty and staff mentoring program, will launch next fall. These dedicated mentors share the strategic goal of advocating for the success, engagement, development, and retention of first-generation students at Virginia Tech. Currently, First-Generation Student Support has identified 156 Virginia Tech faculty and staff who have demonstrated commitment to the mission and goals of the Allies program.

For more information on Virginia Tech’s approach, please visit their website here.