The difference you can make to a first-generation college student

This essay from Inside Higher Ed reminds us of how alienating it can be for students who don’t know the ropes when it comes to college. Whether you are an adjunct, a TA, a staffer, or a full-time faculty member, you’re likely to encounter a clueless first-year student or potential student.

Never assume that students understand the conventions of higher ed or of your particular institution. And remember that for a student who isn’t quite sure about whether this is all going to work, one person can turn everything around. That person can be you.

After two days of wandering Iowa City in the bitter cold, I had done everything constructive I could think of. I had met with advisers in the English department, as well as a university admissions officer. I had wandered through bookstores without buying anything for slightly longer than was polite, and walked around the city bundled up against the cold for as long as I could stand. I was such a rube, in fact, that I didn’t even realize that, simply to stay warm, I could have hung out in the university library’s periodicals room for hours. I didn’t know such places existed, and that you could just walk right into them.

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