Among the 30,000 college students arriving this week on area campuses, many bring an extra level of stress — navigating a landscape foreign not only to them, but to their parents too.

As a demographic, first-generation students are one of the most at-risk populations for retention, said Anthony Cardenas, Lincoln College vice president of enrollment management and student services.

Sometimes first-generation students arrive and don’t truly understand what the whole college experience is about,” said Cardenas, who was a first-generation student himself.

“It’s more than just teachers, classrooms and homework,” he said.

Eureka has its cohort program. But leaders at Lincoln and other area campuses, say their schools tend to approach first-year students in general as the group for special attention – keeping in mind individual background needs.

About a quarter of Illinois State University’s 20,000 students come from families where neither parent earned a four-year degree, said Jonathan Rosenthal, associate vice president of ISU’s enrollment management.

At nearby Heartland Community College’s more than half of its estimated 5,000 full-time students come from those situations too, according to Padriac Shinville, enrollment services dean.

ISU approaches first-generation support from several angles, said Amelia Noel-Elkins, University College director. But in general, the university gives a variety of support to first-year students, she said.  In its University College there is a centralized academic support area, as well as a focus on student orientation and advising, she said.

Illinois Wesleyan University develops community with its first-year students with a summer reading program, and weeklong Turning Titan orientation.

Lincoln Christian University enrolls about 1,200 students, 400 of whom are traditional bachelor-degree seeking students that live on campus, said Brian Mills, vice president of student development. His campus also looks at first-year students as a whole, including a first semester course for tackling emotional transition to college, time management, and how to best work with academic advisement.

“Some of the most successful students I’ve had have been first-generation students. Often they arrive with better time-management skills having had to work already, and often working their way through college,” he said.

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