Cole Launches Group to Support First-Generation Students

Christy Cole '16
Christy Cole '16 in the Hansen Student Center.

Christy Cole ’16 knows firsthand the tough challenges first-generation college students often face. As a sophomore, she launched IWU F1RST, a registered student organization designed to give direction, support and encouragement to first-generation students. Topics addressed include financial aid, scholarships, study habits, time management and volunteer opportunities.

While first-generation students comprise an increasing percentage of the student bodies at U.S. colleges and universities, they are also more likely to drop out than peers whose parents have college degrees.

However, those attrition rates are lower for students who attend private institutions like Illinois Wesleyan. According to the University’s Admissions Office, 15.1 percent of the new domestic students entering in the fall of 2014 were first generation.

This increase in the number of first-generation students is part of a campus that has grown increasingly diverse.

“It’s part of our natural evolution of becoming a much more diverse place,” says Karla Carney-Hall, vice president of student affairs and dean of students. “First-generation students certainly have the ability to be successful; they just don’t necessarily have the insider’s knowledge of how things work or how to access support and opportunities.”

Cole points out how important it is for first-generation students to have a relationship with someone who not only supports their college experience but who knows what is needed to help them succeed.

“For these students who have no support at home, or negative support, they need someone,” she says. “If they can get access to programs, assistance, outreach and support, that would make them a traditional college student, almost. That’s what we want.”

▷ IWU F1RST is just one of nearly 200 Registered Student Organizations on campus. Whether your passion is activism, sports, fine arts or just having fun, you’ll find students who share your interests.