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July 22, 2021

Guidelines for Intentionally Recruiting First-Gen Students

Creating an inclusive early talent pipeline is a top priority for University Recruiting leaders. Our latest study focuses on the recruitment experience of first-generation college students, or undergraduates whose parent(s) or guardian(s) has not received a four-year college degree.

We surveyed and interviewed over 700 first-gen college students to shed light on students’ unique experiences and arrive at best practices for intentional recruiting. These are three of our largest findings.

(1) First-generation college students experience barriers to opportunity.

First-gen college students tend to face higher economic barriers than their peers. 

The median family income among first-gen students is $37,565, which is significantly less than that of their non-first-gen peers ($99,635). 

These economic barriers can make it more challenging for first-gen college students to access the same set of opportunities as their peers.

“I have bills to pay, I have things that I have to worry about financially,” a first-gen college student said in an interview with Veris Insights. “Location is a big factor, because I don’t have the money to sublet an apartment in a major city unless I’m getting paid a decent amount.” 

Over one third (38%) of first-gen college students said that not receiving housing or a housing stipend would prevent them from accepting or successfully completing a summer internship.

To make the recruiting process more equitable, employers should consider first-gen college students’ financial situations and offer housing or housing stipends for internships when possible.

(2) First-generation college students experience barriers to social capital.

First-gen college students feel they must work harder than their peers to get a foot in the door, because they are less likely to have direct connections with people currently in the industries where they are applying.

“You really gotta sell yourself or you gotta know people,” another student said. “As first-gen students, we don’t have that opportunity, we don’t have that resource.” 

The data reflect this, as well; fewer first-gen college students rely upon their social networks to prepare for recruitment. For example, 30% of first-gen college students spoke with alumni at the companies they were recruiting with, compared to 38% of non-first-generation college students. 

To be mindful of this, employers can host networking events specifically for first-gen college students, and invite employees that identify as first-generation to connect with students.

(3)  First-gen college students experience barriers in familiarity with the recruiting process. 

Finally, employers must bridge the gap in familiarity that first-generation college students often face. 

Many students report feeling that there are unclear expectations around recruiting and the job search, but in particular, first-gen college students often have fewer outlets to help answer their questions and ease their confusion.

“I think just overall increasing the transparency of information that’s provided to younger college students,” one first-generation college student said. “So they don’t miss out on any opportunities later down the line, just because they weren’t aware that they had to start early.”

Lack of familiarity with the university recruitment experience can also make it more challenging for students to connect with interviewers. 

Just over one third (37%) of first-gen college students say they are able to make a personal connection with interviewers during virtual interviews, compared to over half (56%) of non-first-generation college students.

Involving employees from diverse backgrounds in interview panels is one way employers can ease some concerns around familiarity.


You May Also Be Interested In: Overcoming Internship Barriers for First-Gen Students

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