But first-generation students are statistically less likely to graduate than students who have parents with college degrees, said Cynthia Demetriou, director of retention in the office of undergraduate education.
“Our goal is to retain students by getting them in touch with academic resources and becoming acclimated to college life,” Demetriou said.
She added that Carolina Firsts —an organization developed four years ago by students who wished to improve retention rates — provides a lot of this support.
“First-generation students tend to come from lower-income families and underrepresented populations,” Demetriou said.
“They’re often from more rural communities where K-12 may not be as strong.”
She added that 55 percent of the Carolina Covenant Scholars program’s members are first-generation students.
Along with the students who attended the dinner Tuesday, a handful of administrators from academic advising and admissions met the new students.
In their introductions, they emphasized their open door policies and shared the locations of their offices.
The event allowed the students to ask upperclassmen questions about college life that their parents might not have been able to answer.
“I feel like there are hidden rules to college,” said senior Kristen Griggs, co-chairwoman of the mentor program in Carolina Firsts.
Griggs said that when she first came to college she didn’t know basic things about college culture and how to talk to professors.
Her parents had attended community colleges, but didn’t have the four-year college experience to coach her on, she said.
Patty Baum, assistant director of admissions, said the number of first-generation students might be rising because a college degree is becoming more important in today’s job market.
She added that first-generation parents are also important to support since parents might not know how to best support their son or daughter.
“I think being the first to go to college is more than just you,” Baum said. “It’s your family who goes as well.”
“When other people see people going to college and being successful, it inspires hope,” Baum said.
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