logo
Some people have self doubt about their ability to undergo study … I was one of those people, and I am passing!

Overarching Principles and Strategies for Supporting First-In-Family Students and their Families

download

The 7 overarching principles and strategies are the result of some great contributions from practitioners given through feedback and workshop activities across the country

Practical support:

  • 1. Changing conversations: Engage with family and community

    Strategies

    • Celebrate being first-in-family (not a deficit model),
    • Change in negative perceptions of university environment through meaningful engagement which encourages and supports new conversations about university
    • Build sense of belonging through social activities: connect people and place through ‘in-person’ contact, on campus social activities on campus which includes family and community - to build familiarity; family and community day
    • Build relationships with students and families: staff go to different campuses (regional and city locations), talk face-to-face, be available to engage with and provide support to first-in-family students and family; sustained relationship over time
    • Start engagement (very) young – EARLY CONVERSATIONS:
      • target programs for first-in-family in primary school
      • consistent communication
      • place-based, human-centred, two-way (space and place), strength-based
    • Be friendly: celebrate diversity and cultural richness, value ALL people, say ‘hello’, smile :).
    • Actively work towards changing university culture and myths for example ‘university is for young people’ or ‘students that lack certain skills / life experiences need to be changed or acted upon’. Remain mindful that you need to avoid implying (in any ay) that these students are deficit
    • Strive to make the university part of the local community rather than separate from it – have a community focus
    • Provide accessible resources and information to family
    • At drop in sessions, provide language translators to overcome language barriers
  • 2. Take the mystery out of university

    Strategies

    • Foreground student contact that is face to face, that engages with students and their families in a meaningful sense and that occurs both on campus and in the community
    • Find out from students and family members what they need based on their experience (not make assumptions about their needs)
    • Ensure first-in-family and family members know how to access available support services
    • Ensure first-in-family students and family members know the impacts of being first as well as the benefits
    • Utilise a variety of multi-modal technological strategies to engage with this group, this needs to be ‘multi-channelled’; ‘relevant and targeted’; ‘two-way’; ‘student centred – computer says yes!’ ; ‘just in time’ and ‘reflective of the student life cycle’.
    • Make expectations clear and explicit; Information session about what to expect
    • Make all information accessible – no uni jargon! Brochures which break down uni jargon
    • Make people feel welcome and comfortable on campus by decoding the university landscape through a variety of strategies including ‘family open days’, real ‘go to’ people and ‘peer support’.
    • Accessibility to quality information, awareness, understanding of HE experiences for students and family – stronger relationships
    • Education at community level in general about resources for first-in-family students – make this a part of the uni narrative
  • 3. Make no assumptions

    Strategies

    • About who first-in-family are
    • About what their families know, need or can offer
    • About diverse backgrounds
    • About knowledge of academic expectations and processes
    • Normalize the difference and recognise academic practices and literacies needed for success
    • Provide ‘safe’ ways to fill in gaps in how to support, e.g. phone app for families to understand how to support students
    • Greater awareness and understanding of the diversity of first-in-family students
  • 4. Build a sense of community

    Strategies

    • Provide ‘informal’ opportunities for families to come on campus; inclusion of parents and family at events; Information day for first-in-family students and family members
    • Provide space for first-in-family student ‘voices’ to be heard via marketing, literature and policy documents
    • Staff maintain approachability
    • Acknowledge students and their particular journeys to higher education
    • Build on technology to create relationships that are meaningful and supportive, these relationships need to be proactive, authentic and diverse but also involve real people and face to face encounters
  • 5. Adopt a strengths-based approach

    Strategies

    University outreach that seeks to empower students by
    • Recognizing what they bring to the university environment, the validity of prior experience
    • Encouraging students to reflect upon the support that exists outside the university
    • Fostering help-seeking behaviour
    • Acknowledging and celebrating the ‘resource’ of diversity: includes diversity of ages, cultural backgrounds, socio-economic circumstances, life experiences
  • 6. Model authenticity: draw on first-in-family student experience

    Strategies

    • Mentoring program for students at uni – a ‘go to’ person
    • Provide students and family with ‘real’ stories from first-in-family students (and family members?) who’ve ‘been there’
      • Inspirational videos
      • first-in-family student and/or family member as invited speakers at events
      • Q & A sessions including first-in-family and/or family member
    • Networking opportunities for students and family to know there are others in the same situation
  • 7. Institutions: commit to resources and policy

    Strategies

    The institution has a responsibility to:
    • allocate funds to effectively support increasing numbers of first-in-family students
    • allocate dedicated staffing, funding and resources which enable success for first-in-family
    • consider a first-in-family team including a member from other equity groups (e.g. Indigenous, international, disabilities etc)
    • consider a family engagement / support officer
    • develop a coordinated approach to support students and family members
    • commit funds and resources to research on first-in-family and family
    • collect data of first-in-family at enrolment or through UAC
    • upskill academic staff, raise awareness
    Institutional policy needs to:
    • include recognition of first-in-family as a group – but a diverse one
    • capture first-in-family at time of enrolment
    • develop institutional guidelines to staff