Faculty Guide for Teaching First-Gen Students

Leaving home for college can be overwhelming and many students, including First-Gen Warriors, feel confused about academic and social expectations on campus. 

Over 3,000 undergraduates, or 39.6% of students at WSU, are First-Gen Warriors. Being first-generation means that they are the first person in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree.

When compared to students whose parents have a 4-year bachelor’s degree, First-Gen Warriors are more likely to:
  • Be equally supported and encouraged by their parents
  • Be transfer students
  • Be female
  • Be low-income
  • Be juggling academics and a job
  • Be commuting or living off campus
When asked how professors could support their success, First-Gen Warriors provided the following suggestions.

Set up a required “meet and greet” with each of us the first few weeks of class so we can get to know you as a person.

Asking an instructor or administrator for help is intimidating, so try to put students at ease. Share something personal about yourself, or mention if you are a first-generation student yourself. If you are a first-generation student yourself, you can be a wonderful role model to the many first-gen students at WSU. 

Offer a way to earn points for participation or attendance to help engage first-gen students in class.

Assign more group quizzes and projects so students can demonstrate their work in ways other than tests.

Spend time in class going over answers to exams, quizzes and homework. Posting grades is frequently on D2L Brightspace is important. But it would be even more helpful if we could understand what questions we missed and what the correct answers are. 

Post office hours outside of your door so students know when and where they can meet with you.

Tell students how you want to be addressed-- formally or informally. For example, first-gen students don’t necessarily know the difference between Dr., Professor, or Instructor.

Please use D2L Brightspace and update grades often so students know how they’re doing in your class. 

Understand that some students may not realize they are first generation, or the significance of being a First-Gen Warrior.

Tell us more about campus resources - or even better – require that we use these resources as part of a graded assignment for class.

Understand that parents of First-Gens want to help their students, they may just not know how. If parents contact you, direct them to the proper resources on campus.