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How Recruiters Can Support First-Gen College Students

If you're working on a plan for your DEIB recruiting efforts, look no further than first-generation college students as a source of untapped talent your organization can benefit from. This is a huge pool of potential candidates that shouldn't be ignored. In fact, according to NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, one-third of all college students today are first-gens, many of which come from historically underrepresented backgrounds, so if you haven't made these students part of your diversity recruitment plan, you're really missing out on getting the talent you need.

However, when recruiting first-generation college students, it's important to keep in mind that their needs may not be the same as other talent you find on campus, so you may have to offer support that helps them succeed. As a result, to create an employer brand that this demographic finds attractive, it’s necessary to adjust your recruitment strategies. The following are some ways recruiters can support first-gens to increase the likelihood that they’re able to attract, as well as retain, them.

1. Paying Interns

If you're not paying interns, you're probably going to have a lot of trouble attracting first-gens to your program, since a large number of these students have to work full-time jobs as they attend school to make ends meet. This means these students simply cannot afford to work at an organization for free, even if it's just during the summer months. In addition, first-gens tend to be older than the average college student, so there's a good chance they have more responsibilities, like taking care of children or aging parents, than their younger counterparts on campus. To be successful in recruiting this demographic, you need a paid internship program that provides a fair wage—which is really a good idea for companies to do anyway.

2. Providing Mentorship

Since so many first-gen students work full-time as they attend school, they may not have the opportunity to make connections like other students can—so they can benefit from mentorship that will fill this gap and help them navigate their job search after graduation. Providing assistance with things like resume writing and interviewing skills can go a long way toward boosting students’ chances of having a successful job search. In addition, teaching first-generation college students about how the recruitment process works will help them understand what recruiters expect from them, as well as what they can expect from recruiters when they’re considered for a position. 

By mentoring these potential candidates, you can also educate them about your field, which may benefit your company as well. Give first-gens a real look at your industry and help them learn the skills you look for in employees, so they’re more prepared if they apply for a position at your company later.

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3. Creating a Space for First-Generation College Students

Since first-generation college students are often juggling so much, they may feel isolated from their peers. This means they may not have the opportunity to connect with other first-gens at their school, so they don’t have a support system of people who understand what they're going through.

Your organization can help provide that support. As you’re mentoring these students, you can create a community so they learn together and discuss their shared experiences. Similar to an employee resource group, you can host a community and allow first-generation college students to come together and bond with each other.

4. Offering Scholarships

The cost of education is a huge concern for all students, but for first-gens, the high price of higher education can be especially challenging. According to the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of first-generation college students will take out loans of at least $25,000, while 57 percent of those with parents who attended college take out that much. By offering scholarships to first-gens, you can demonstrate your support, which will help with your DEIB hiring since so many of them are members of underserved communities. 

When you're doing DEIB recruiting, making first-generation college students part of your plan is a great idea. However, you must factor in that these students have a unique experience, so they may need support that others don’t. By providing that support, you can make them familiar with your employer brand as you help better position them for success in the workplace.

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