First-generation college students are the first in their families to go to college. Since they are the first in their families, they are often left to figure out the complicated higher education system in the United States of America on their own. Without proper guidance, students can feel overwhelmed by filling out complex applications such as the FASFA and scholarship application and, among other unfamiliar tasks, to enroll and stay in college.  They need help understanding college 101 terminology such as prerequisites, capstone, or hybrid. A lack of understanding of Student Success strategies such as time management, Habits of Mind, or navigating several digital tools can be detrimental to their college success. Because of such complicated and unfamiliar higher education territory, students can feel alone and as if they don’t belong in an institution of higher learning. They may also be unfamiliar with the college resources available, such as the Wellness Center, Tutoring Services, Offices of Accessibility, or the Ombudsman Office.  This can cause students to get stressed, have anxiety, and, unfortunately, drop out of college.

Peer Mentorship via Social Media digital project aims to provide peer mentorship through platforms where students would most effectively receive information, such as social media platforms like Instagram or Tic Tok. This content would be created and curated by a team of mentorship experts, mentors, and mentees. The goal is for First Generation students to learn and be prepared to succeed in college regardless of the hurdles they may face.

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12 thoughts on “First-Generation College Students: Digital Peer Mentorship via Social Media

  1. Zico Abhi Dey (he/him)

    Hi Estefany, it is great reading your idea for the pitch. Is there any tech involved in this project? Since, this project intended to produce only contents for certain social media platforms, proficiency at media designing with Photoshop or premier pro is required if I understand correctly. Is there any other roles?

  2. Elizabeth Szypulski (She/her)

    Hi Estefany,

    I love your passion for this project, and it’s definitely a worthy endeavor!

    I’m not able to access the slide deck — could you post another link? Like Zico, I was wondering about the tech side of things. Would the guidance just be delivered on social media, or would it be gathered in one place?

    I’m also curious about the humanities connection — would part of this be offering guidance or interpretive help for humanities classes or content the students encounter?

    1. Estefany M Gonzaga (She/Her) Post author

      Hello Elizabeth,

      thank you! Sure, I’ll add the link again. I think that social media l would be a way to deliver the information to students but I do think that having this available as an OER would also be great so that other institutions can implement this strategy as well.

  3. zelda montes (they/them)

    As a first-generation college student, thank you for pitching this project, Estefany! Mentorship and community are pivotal to the success of first-generation college students. I’m interested in learning more about how mentors/mentees/experts are invited to engage with Peer Mentorship via Social Media.

    Are you considering creating a website for this project, so that content created across different social media platforms can be consolidated and shared in one place? I think it would be a great idea for long-term vision of the project, and could serve as a landing page for interested mentors/mentees/experts wanting to become involved!

  4. Maria F. Buitrago (she/hers)

    I really like this project Estefany and have personally struggled with those same barriers that your students face. I also did my final research project for my BA in Anthropology investigating formal national education in indigenous communities in Colombia. Although the contexts are very different, there’s an underlying problematic that I think concerns our western modern school system and poses very difficult questions. For example, the rupture that first-generation students feel between the school system and their families and how that works against their “success” (as you mentioned given that they have to figure out the system by themselves) is (from my POV) a deep intersectional structural phenomenon, involving variables like class, race, language, etc. I would venture to say that this is not just a U.S problem. For me it was so nourishing to read the work that Pierre Bourdieu did with migrant students in France. Maybe, if you have not read his work already, you would find it very interesting as well, happy to chat about it! Anyways I say all of this because I think the project you propose is first super important, is about the people (which I love) and has a clear outcome. But I also think that the knowledge that you are producing here or the research that can be done here is super valuable to do for example a data visualization project. It would be super interesting to track certain variables from both mentors and students and organize that data in new ways that you can then further interrogate to support or disclaim or explore themes around structural inequalities that are built within the western modern school system.

    1. Estefany M Gonzaga (She/Her) Post author

      Hello Maria!

      thank you for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate your feedback and recommendations. I would def look into Pierre and we should chat.

      I think that the project you did in undergrad. I would love to hear about it more.

  5. Gemma S.

    Hi Estefany, it is lovely to see your commitment and the passion that is intrinsic in the fabric of your project! Like Elizabeth, I cannot access the deck, would you mind re-sharing it?
    I wanna say something that I hope will not be seen as too controversial, but how about extending this mentorship scheme to all students instead? Or maybe elaborate two different programmes that can be of help for those who struggle to navigate the system? I think your reasoning, as noted by Maria as well, could be extended, among other areas, to those students who, for a variety of different reasons, find themselves attending school overseas and encounter difficulties in adapting to the culture and the language which, in turn, could become barriers to the successful accomplishment of a degree.

    1. Estefany M Gonzaga (She/Her) Post author

      Hello Gemma,

      thank you for your feedback! Yes, in general, I think that the information that would be shared with students will benefit anyone. The aim is to support all college students to succeed.



  6. Kristy Leonardatos (She/Her)

    I love your passion and service helping first generation students! I am excited to learn more about the project tonight. I am not a first generation student and I get confused with the higher ed world. Don’t even start me on that flipping FAFSA (as a parent). I love this proposal and would be happy to be a part of it. Have you thought of expanding to also provide help to the parents so they can support and be a part of their child’s educational experience? Coming from a talent acquisition background and having some experience in mentoring interns, I would be interested in exploring mentoring these students when they apply for jobs and internships. One more thought, is there a mentoring relationship with first generation faculty and students? See you tonight!

    1. Estefany M Gonzaga (She/Her) Post author

      Hello Kristy,

      thank you for your response! Yes! the FAFSA application is insane among other applications. I know that these tasks can sometimes detract a student from even applying. I think your suggestions regarding expending it to parents and also providing mentorship in regard to professional development is also a great idea. thank you!

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