The Best Programs for First-Generation College Students

It’s common for students to grow up knowing their parents expect them to go to college. For many traditional families, the goal is for the children to do better than their parents did, and college is often seen as the key to accomplishing this. For first-generation students in particular, college can be an intimidating concept. They’re entering an arena unknown to themselves or their parents. Combine this with the fact that some students may be pressured to succeed by their parents, or they may put undue pressure on themselves, and it’s unfortunately common to see these students leave without finishing a degree. In fact, approximately one third of first-generations students drop out within three years.  Clearly, retaining these students needs to be just as high of a priority as recruiting them in the first place.

For years, efforts have been made to increase retention rates of first-generation students. These have ranged from classroom strategies to outreach programs, and some schools are even creating new offices dedicated to the success of first-generation students and addressing their unique challenges. These are certainly worthwhile pursuits and will hopefully demonstrate an increase in first-generation students finishing their degrees, but it’s hard to do much if a student doesn’t feel like their college journey is worthwhile in the first place. It’s important for students to be aware of programs that can help them secure high demand jobs and use their skills in ways that interest them. Otherwise, what motivation will they have to go through more school instead of joining the workforce right away, just like their parents? The following are some great, hands on programs that are good fits for first-generation students looking for practical reasons to go to college.

Automotive Programs

There’s no shortage of car dealerships or auto repair shops in the world, so it may come as a surprise that the industry is actually having a bit of a crisis when it comes to skilled mechanics, or a lack thereof. A huge percentage of automotive education these days involves the ins and outs of the electronic systems in vehicles, and while these are important, students need hands on training with the mechanical systems to be suitable candidates for the automotive industry.

It used to be much more common for people to work on their own cars, which meant that starting auto technicians would have some workable level of experience. Gas station attendants would also frequently learn and perform basic repairs, and this made them good candidates for the industry to recruit. These days, an attendant’s experience is largely that of a cashier.

This means that automotive companies are in dire need of skilled workers, and they often fund college programs to train their own recruits. For those who are willing to go through the steps to become a master mechanic, automotive, diesel and collision repair academic programs can set them on a path to clear six figures. Even a short, two year program will teach practical skills students will be able to use for the rest of their careers. The automotive industry has career options for all levels of education and ambition.

Dental Services

For students looking for in demand jobs and a wide array of options when it comes to education and career paths, dental services are a versatile choice. Oral care is an extremely important, though sometimes overlooked, part of a person’s overall health. Career options range from doctoral positions to mid-level positions, such as dentist assistants or oral hygienists, as well as administrative positions.

It’s quite common for dental hygienists to complete a two year program at a community college before being certified. Duties of a dental hygienist will include providing preventative dental care under the supervisor of a dentist as well as checking patients for gum disease, cleaning teeth, and educating patients on measures to promote their oral health.

Doctorate level positions include that of a general dentist (DDS) as well as a multitude of specialties. A general dentist can be thought of similarly to a primary care physician in that they will offer routine care and services but will refer patients to a specialist if there is a problem beyond their ability. For example, an Orthodontist specializes is the alignment of teeth and the jaw and would treat patients needing braces or oral surgeries related to these matters. Generally speaking, such a specialization path will require two more years of advanced education in addition to dental school.

Demand for dental careers at all levels is rising, especially as more insurance plans include dental services, so this field is a practical choice for students at any level of study.

Nursing Programs

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is in constant need of nurses, and there is no shortage of accredited universities offering programs. It’s also possible to become a registered nurse (RN), through an associate degree program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination. One could even become a Certified Nursing Assistant through a single class, although a CNA’s pay is significantly lower than an RN’s.

While many still don’t know the distinction between an RN and a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), it’s becoming increasingly common for institutions to require nurses to continue their education to meet new healthcare regulations. This means an RN who got an Associate’s degree may need to complete an RN-BSN program in the future. Many hospitals now require new hires to have their BSN, and current RNs may be given three to five years to obtain theirs if they want to keep their jobs. Management and coordinating positions will generally require a BSN as well.

Students still in school are certainly better off if they go ahead and finish their BSN before entering the job market. The Institute of Medicine is recommending that at least 80% of all nursing staff have their BSN by 2020, and most employers have been working hard toward this goal for years. They also estimate a 16% jump in nursing jobs by 2024, so this seems to be a particularly safe path to pursue.

Online Degree Programs

Of course, a “traditional” college experience isn’t at all necessary anymore, even for those looking to obtain a four year degree. Plenty of accredited universities offer entirely online experiences these days, so students can study at their own pace in an environment that’s right for them. These online options can be perfect for students who are struggling in the traditional college environment or for working adults looking to go back to school. Many of these offer low tuition rates, so they can also make education more affordable. Studying online is obviously a drastic difference from the classroom approach, and it may not be right for everyone, so taking an online learning self-assessment can give prospective students and idea of whether they’d like this approach or not.

This just scratches the surface of available options. Whether a student has a very limited amount of time/money to spend on college, or they’re looking to pursue an advanced degree, there are more ways to go about it than ever. Students and parents serious about education should speak with an advisor to determine their best options for further education based on their goals and means.