Student and parent giving wings up sign

First Generation Families

We understand there are many checklist items to take care of before your student is admitted and starts classes on campus. As we've mentioned on our Overview & Advice page, each family's experience will be different. We also know that for some families this experience will be completely new.

Having a student who is the first member of a family to attend college brings a great sense of pride to a family. For parents of a first-generation college student, we want to help you navigate this transition for you and your student. 


Who is a first-generation student?

A first-generation student is a college student who is the first in their family (one or more parent does not have a four-year college degree) to go to and graduate from college.


As a family member of a first-generation college student, we understand that helping guide your student through their college transition can be difficult. We hope this site will help you navigate your and your student's transitions.


Common Terms and Jargon

As you navigate the site, if you encounter some new terms you're not familiar with, we're here to help! Feel free to contact us for help, or check out our guide to common campus terms and Tech jargon » 



Many common concerns for first-generation students and their families include:


Academic adjustment ›
“I don’t understand this assignment; maybe I’m not smart enough.”

Time management ›
“How can I get this homework done when I have to work 30 hours?”

Financial concerns ›
“It seems like everyone goes out to eat every night; I can’t afford that.”

Feelings of isolation ›
“Everyone else seems to know what to do; no one else in my family finished college, so maybe I wasn’t meant to either.”


Supporting Your First-Generation Student ›

As parents or family of a first-generation college student, we know that supporting them in their college journey can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some general strategies and tips you can use to support your student:Students laughing together

  • Listen. Being a listening ear for your student can go a long way. Just letting your student know that you support them in their decision to attend college and that you will be there every step of the way with them can mean a lot; it also helps let your student know they aren't alone and can come to you when they need support.

  • Go through the process with them. Let your student know you want to be a part of their college experience. Starting from the admissions application, go through every process with them. This will show your student that you have taken an interest in their experience and are doing your best to learn these processes as well so that you can help when needed.

  • Educate yourself. Do some homework on your own. Even though you may not have experienced submitting a college application or filling out a FAFSA doesn't mean you can't be helpful to your student. Once your student lets you know they are interested in attending college, do your own research to help familiarize yourself with these processes. Research the universities your student is interested in and educate yourself about what your student will soon be experiencing. This will definitely impress your student and let them know you are supportive and want to help.

  • Attend SOAR. SOAR is Tennessee Tech's freshman orientation program, and there is programming specifically for parents during these events. Attending SOAR with your student will educate you more about Tech and what your student's experience will be like as a Golden Eagle. During SOAR, you'll be introduced to all the resources Tech has to succeed and how you can be a partner and champion in your student's success. This event costs $36 for parents to attend and will definitely be worth it!

  • Join the Parent Association. Joining the Tennessee Tech Parent Association (TTUPA) is a great way to stay involved and connected with your student during their college experience. You'll receive monthly eBlasts and newsletters with helpful information, upcoming deadlines, and great topics of conversation you can have with your student the next time you talk to them.


Only 30% of first-generation students utilized academic support services, compared to 37% of their continuing-generation peers.


Tips for First-Generation Students ›

Develop effective time-management skills. Know that this will not happen overnight and will take about a full semester to figure out the best time management strategies that work best for your student.

Build social networks and campus involvement to encourage a sense of belonging on campus. For students looking to get involved, a good place to start is the organizations within their major or academic department. They can also find involvement opportunities through the Student Involvement & Leadership Center.

Make connections and find mentors. Mentors can include faculty or staff members on campus, or upperclassmen. It may benefit your student to find a mentor who is/was a first-generation student themselves.

Don't be afraid to try new things. College is a great time for students to discover themselves and what they love to do. Encourage your student to take risks and make mistakes so they can learn and grow.

Don't doubt yourself. Remind your student that they are here for a reason. Put the time and energy they would be worrying about whether they belong toward working hard, learning, and taking advantage of opportunities on campus.


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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome ›

parent and student smiling at one another“Imposter Syndrome” is the thought or idea that you have only succeeded due to luck and not by talent or qualifications. This is a common syndrome found among many college students, but especially among first-generation students. Here are some steps to help your student overcome imposter syndrome:

  • Believe in them, and encourage them to believe in themselves. Help them understand that they don't have to be perfect, and they should be proud of what they have achieved. They are not in college by mistake.

  • Help them identify their feelings and counter them. By identifying the thoughts that are upsetting them, they can then pose a counter argument to the negative thoughts to help them think more positively.

  • Encourage them to reach out for help. If these negative thoughts seem to be taking on a huge role in their life, encourage your student to reach out to help. Tech's Counseling Center is a great on-campus resource for students to utilize!

  • Find role models. Finding a role model with a similar background can be really helpful for your student. A role model or mentor can help your student interpret their experiences and provide some great advice to your student.

  • Help them know that they are not alone. Let your student know that they are not along and imposter syndrome is experienced by thousands of people who have overcome it, and they can get through it, too.



65% of first-generation students use financial aid services, compared to only 49% of their continuing-generation peers.


Conversation Starters ›

We know it can often be a challenge knowing what exactly you should ask your student or what to talk about with them in relation to their college experience. Asking the right questions can ensure you are able to have a full conversation with your student. Here are some conversation starters to get you started:

Prior to Starting College:

    • Have you thought about what you hope to major in and potential careers within those majors? Let's explore majors and potential careers together.
    • What do you think will be most challenging for you as you transition to college life? What do you think will be easy?
    • What are some goals you have for yourself during your college experience? How can I help you achieve those?
    • How do you intend to balance all of the responsibilities you will have as a college student? Can I help you prioritize?

First Semester of College:

    • How is your semester going so far? What is your favorite class/professor and why?
    • How do you feel you are transitioning to college life? Is there anything you feel you are struggling with or doing well with? How can I help you adjust?
    • What clubs and student organizations have you joined so far? 
    • What are some goals you have for yourself this semester? How do you plan to achieve them, and how can I help you achieve them?
    • What is going well so far this semester? 
    • What are you most excited about this semester?
    • Have you updated your resume lately? Are you planning to visit the Center for Career Development or attend any of their career readiness workshops?

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Financial Resources ›

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Parents & Families

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