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Ashley German Soto, entering her third year at Union College in New York, has gotten a lot of support that has helped her find success as a first-generation student, including a full-tuition scholarship, cohort-based leadership training and being matched with a mentor. But she would like to see more professors asking students like her what they can do as educators to help, and "doing it in a way that's not singling them out -- saying you want to be a better professor and are trying to gain skills," she says. "Being vulnerable allows for transparency and builds that trusting bond."

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Findings from a recent Student Voice survey of 1,073 first-generation college students reveal feelings of isolation and sources of worry for many students whose parents didn't graduate from college, as well as how particular supports from professors and other areas of campus have helped, or would help.

For example, 24 percent of students in the survey, conducted by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse with support from Kaplan, are aware of a center on campus for first-gen students, and an additional 19 percent would like to see that kind of effort be a top priority.

Regardless of available campus supports, professors are the professionals who have the most frequent contact with students. Recognizing this, some higher ed institutions are working to equip faculty with knowledge and tools to support the first-gen experience in the classroom and beyond.


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