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Supporting your student First generation students
An image of Steph Rimmer on the Edge Hill University campus.

Steph Rimmer is an Education Liaison Assistant and predominantly provides higher education advice and guidance to students in schools and colleges.

Before joining the Student Recruitment team, Steph graduated from Edge Hill University with a BA (Hons) in English Language.

In this article, Steph shares her journey to university with parents who didn’t attend university themselves. She highlights some of the ways you can support your student if you are in a similar position.

I had always imagined becoming a primary school teacher, but never really gave much thought to how I would make it happen. When I started college, I began to think about my future, and university seemed to be the answer. I went home and asked my mum what she thought to the idea and she told me that she had always imagined me going to university, even though neither her nor my dad had been themselves. This may be something that resonates with you, as you and your student begin to explore university as an option.

Utilise support from universities and other bodies

Universities usually have teams dedicated to providing information, advice and guidance. Although you may expect that this is aimed only towards prospective students, there can also be a wide range of support available to parents and supporters.

In terms of resources that can help you understand the process of applying to university and the steps afterwards, the internet is the best place to start. UCAS, the organisation through which your student will apply to university, have a wealth of content to introduce you to the world of higher education. By making use of these resources you can begin to learn a little bit about what your student may encounter in the coming months and start to understand the application and decision-making process.

Your student may already have a few universities in mind which they like the look of. Speak to them about the universities they are interested in and visit their websites. Don’t forget to look out for resources dedicated to parents and supporters.

At this point, your student might want to visit an open day to see the university in person. There will be plenty of opportunities to get answers to questions you may have, perhaps around accommodation or finance.

Talk to your student

An image of a student sat on a couch holding a laptop, in the background of the image there are two people sat at a small table.

As a first-generation to university student, I found that one of the most useful things when applying to university was discussing the process early with my parents. Once they had a grasp of the process, my mum made sure to check in with me every so often about where I was at with the application process and offered help with my personal statement.

One part of the process that your student will need support with is their student finance application. The amount of maintenance loan they receive is dependent upon household income, and so as a parent or supporter you will need to share information to complete the application. This is something universities can offer information and guidance on, and some universities do this in more casual ways, such as on live chat.

Realise your value in the decision-making process

In hindsight, some of the best advice I received was from my mum and dad, as they knew me best. You have a valuable perspective as somebody with more life experience and can offer advice about things your student may never have experienced before, such as accommodation or managing money.

When I visited universities, my parents often pointed out things I hadn’t considered, like the practicalities of living in a certain place or studying in a particular way. Having that perspective from my parents was really valuable to me.

Have confidence in your student

Your student will receive lots of advice from you and their sixth form/college, but the choice of university and course is ultimately theirs. I found it particularly comforting that my parents supported my decision to move into university accommodation and reassured me that even if things didn’t work out so perfectly, they would be there to support me.

For most students, the trust and confidence from their parents and supporters makes the world of difference.

May 27, 2022