9 helpful resources for first-generation college students

Kelly Hughes
Kelly Hughes

October 12, 2022

Every year, thousands of first-generation students arrive on college campuses. In fact, over ⅓ of all incoming students are the first in their families to attend college. And while they’re excited to learn and begin their journey toward a degree, they also face unique challenges. These students are often not privy to the “hidden curriculum” of policies, procedures, and processes that can make navigating campus life and making connections a challenge. 

In a recent Mainstay survey, first-generation students were 10 points more likely than non-first-generation students to respond that they “do not have help and need it.” They were also 5.6 points less likely to feel confident about their college journey. 

But there’s hope. The right technology can play a crucial role in paving the path to success for first-gen students. That’s why it’s so important to provide resources to help students succeed at college — both academically and personally. 

Mainstay’s empathetic chatbots provide learners with an easy way to get answers to questions about campus life and find the resources they need to succeed. These conversations also increase a sense of belonging and empower them to persist during challenging times.

Tools to support first-generation student success

Personalized outreach isn’t the only way to provide valuable support for first-gen students. Here are some of the most useful websites, tools, and apps you can share with students to help support their success:

Finding the right school

Niche — Choosing a college is a big decision, and it’s one that can have a huge impact on a student’s future. Niche provides students with everything they need to make a smart decision about the best colleges and schools for their needs. With in-depth profiles of every school in America — including data on tuition, acceptance rates, student satisfaction, and more — students can weigh their options using real information that will help them make an informed decision about their educational future. 

Campus Tours — Between classes, work, and family obligations, many students may not have the time or resources to visit your campus in person. Virtual campus tours give students from across the country the opportunity to see what your school has to offer without having to leave their homes. These tours allow viewers to explore your campus through photorealistic maps, 360-degree walking tours, and interactive videos. Offering virtual tours gives students from across the country the opportunity to see what your school has to offer — without leaving their homes.

Financial aid

StudentAid.gov — Applying for financial aid may not be the most exciting part of the enrollment process, but filling out a FAFSA is a key jumping-off point for any students who qualify for assistance. Directing students to the official student aid website is crucial to getting them the financial aid they need to enroll and persist in college. 

Tip: The right message can get more financial aid to more students! In an experiment with our research partner, Irrational Labs, we discovered that students who received texts from Mainstay that said applying for FAFSA is part of their enrollment process were more likely to apply on time.

College success

GetSchooled — Get Schooled is a non-profit organization that has helped more than one million young people on their path to college and first jobs. They focus on supporting underserved learners — including those from low-income families, racial minorities, and first-generation college students.

Mainstay partnered with GetSchooled to create a series of videos to share with students through our Student Engagement Platform. These quick, relevant videos help guide students through the financial aid process, prepare for freshman year, or develop academic success skills. Videos are an incredibly effective way to relay important information to students since viewers retain 95% of a video’s message compared to only 10% when reading text. People also share videos 1200% more frequently than links and text combined. 

EvernoteCollege is a great time to build life-long organizational skills but it can also be stressful — especially for students who are learning to manage a lot of new responsibilities at once. With the help of an organizational tool like Evernote, students can keep track of their academic assignments, develop study templates, create to-do lists, prioritize tasks, and develop healthy habits that will serve them throughout their college journey and beyond. 

Asana — Many students struggle to keep up with assignments from all of their classes — but having everything in a centralized space can help. With Asana, students can create a project for each class and add all their assignments, notes, and documents in one place. They can even share a workspace with classmates so everyone can track group projects. Asana syncs to students’ Google calendar so they can keep track of every important deadline.

Grammarly — Even the most brilliant student needs a little help with grammar, punctuation, and clarity sometimes. That’s where Grammarly comes in. With comprehensive feedback on everything from spelling to writing style, Grammarly helps students write with confidence and communicate their ideas with ease.

UnidaysWhen it comes to saving money, most students need all the help they can get! Unidays connects students with discounts on everything from cell phones and streaming services to laptops and study tools like Chegg and Brilliant

Study Together — Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum — and many students do best when they have the chance to connect with each other. This virtual community makes it possible for students to learn, teach, share, support, and motivate learners from anywhere in the world.

Using technology to empower first-generation students

While the resources above are useful for any student, they are particularly helpful for those navigating the college experience without the wellspring of knowledge afforded to non-first-generation students.

Providing first-generation students with the tools and support they need to succeed can mean the difference between dropping out and earning a degree. That’s why Mainstay helps non-traditional and underserved students by providing them with encouraging messages, empathetic guidance, and 24/7 support they need to succeed at every stage of their journey.

Do you have a useful tool for first-generation students and don’t see your name on this list? Email us at [email protected] to be included in this blog post.

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Sign up for your personalized demo to find out how Mainstay makes it easy to spark conversations with your students or employees and guide them toward positive results.

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Instant support — anytime, anywhere

Mainstay’s behaviorally intelligent chatbots make it easy to engage with students and employees on the channels they prefer to use:

SMS text messaging

Live chat

Web chat

Social media

Let's talk