Research Policy Proposal

Itzel Garcia

Professor Schreiber

IDC 4001H

23 May 2024

Active Interventions to Help First-Generation College Students


First-generation students whose parents have not obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher often face unique challenges when navigating their path to higher education (NASPA 2020). These challenges can stem from a lack of familial experience with the college processes, limited access to resources, and socio-economic disparities. First-generation students make up a significant portion of the college student population, with many of them who lack guidance and resources that are often taken for granted by those who do have family with higher education. They frequently encounter difficulties navigating the complexities of college applications, financial aid, and academic expectations (Schwartz).  Additionally, first-generation students may face socio-economic challenges that further hinder their access to educational opportunities. 

To better understand the effect of interventions, it is essential to look at present-day interventions and actions implemented into the school curriculum. How many students actually receive support within the high school public system? What policies are implemented to help students, and how do schools currently manage the college application process? In terms of the New York City Department of Education, their website states that during October, high schools begin to prepare seniors for their postsecondary plans by October 30th. So, high schools, at most, only have to prepare students for postsecondary plans one month in advance (NYC DOE). Although NYC is one of the most diverse cities, with about 56% of undergraduates being first-generation students (Hamilton, 2023), no NYC DOE policy forces schools to provide support and mentorship for students applying to college. This means that many high school students are often unaware of the steps and information needed for postsecondary school. As a result, they do not prepare their students for this new journey of their lives. 

In recognition of these barriers, various active interventions in high schools should be developed to support first-generation students in their college preparation and decision-making journey. It is essential to understand the unique circumstances of first-generation students in order to design effective interventions in high schools to support their college aspirations. Active interventions in high schools would play a very important role in bridging the gap for first-generation students. These interventions go beyond giving them more information; they also involve hands-on guidance, mentorship, and support to address the specific needs of the students. By focusing on strategies that are engaging, these interventions will help empower and support students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence that are necessary in order to make highly informed college decisions and succeed academically.

Previous Research

Previous research has shown that active interventions do have a positive correlation with students enrolling in college. Research has been conducted amongst various races and different educational levels. These studies have shown the effectiveness of mentorship and guidance. One study followed Black nursing students and high school students. They found that financial barriers, first-generation status, inadequate academic preparedness, insufficient advising by guidance counselors, and lack of role models all contribute to decreased representation of POC students in college (Bundy, 2022). This study also showed having a mentor to help navigate students was helpful overall. It was especially noticeable among first-generation students. In terms of having guidance counselor support, a study showed that a guidance counselor who actively showed individualized interests in the students had less of a difficult time guiding these students in their college journey (Holland, 2015). Overall, the studies showed that the more support they get, the more likely they are to enroll in college.


In order to better understand the effects of active intervention on first-generation students, I conducted a study. My study addressed two key areas. The first is the role and effectiveness of high school preparation in terms of college readiness, academic skills, and knowledge about the college application process. This involved examining how well high schools equipped students with the necessary tools and information to navigate their postsecondary education pathways. The second key area addresses the role of mentorship programs in assisting students, specifically first-generation college students, with college applications, financial aid, and academic advisement. This aimed to determine the impact of having a mentor on students’ ability to apply to and prepare for college successfully.

In order to better understand these two key points, I created a Qualtrics survey. This survey was designed to capture the perceptions and experiences of current college students regarding the support they received in high school. It allowed me to see firsthand whether or not they felt their high school experiences influenced their decision to attend college and how well-prepared they felt for college life. The survey was sent out for two weeks across CUNY students from different campuses, and there was a total of 19 responses. The results showed that approximately 74% of the participants were first-generation college students. This shows how relevant first-generation students are when addressing school policies. When asked questions about their personal high school experience, 91% of participants believed that their high schools did not adequately address the needs of first-generation students. This further shows the gap in support and resources among first-generation students.


A series of questions and statements were provided to understand the individualized opinions of the participants better.

One part of the survey stated, “My high school thoroughly informed us of the different career paths we could take, such as college and trade school.” 68% of participants disagreed with this statement. High school serves as an important time for students to explore their interests, skills, and potential career paths. However, the data suggests that many students did not receive enough information about the various options available to them. This lack of awareness can hinder students’ ability to make informed decisions about their future educational and career goals, leading to potential difficulty in understanding their aspirations and the opportunities they pursue.

Another question asked, “What barriers, if any, have you encountered in accessing college preparation and mentorship programs?” Of the 19 participants, 14 of them stated that their main barrier was the lack of information about available programs. The results about why it’s hard to use college prep and mentorship programs show that many students have trouble finding the help they need for college. This shows that students often can’t find important resources and chances to get help because they don’t have enough information about what’s out there.

When asked if their support system in high school affected their college decision, one first-generation student stated that it, in fact, did have an effect. They stated,  “I was not informed much about financial aid and applying for grants, so I couldn’t attend more expensive schools that I was accepted to.” As previously stated, lack of information seemed to have been a major barrier for many students. Because these students had little knowledge about the financial support they could have received, their college choice became limited. 

When asked how prepared they felt during their first semester of college, only 10% stated that they felt very prepared, and 40% stated they had only felt slightly prepared. This indicates that most students did not feel adequately equipped for the challenges of college life upon entering their first semester.

Lastly, when asked what policies they thought could be implemented in high school to help students prepare for college, there was a slightly equal result. About 36.9% said a college readiness class, 32.6% stated one-on-one counselor meetings and 30.43% stated mentorship programs. This shows the importance of offering different support services and programs in high schools that will accommodate the needs and learning styles of all students. This ensures that all students have the resources and guidance necessary to succeed in their postsecondary education plans.


Based on this research, it can be concluded that there is a lack of adequate information and support regarding college preparation for high school students. The findings reveal that a significant majority of students felt their high schools did not sufficiently inform them about various career paths, including college and trade school options. This lack of guidance appears to be a significant barrier, particularly for first-generation college students. Most students did not believe they were adequately prepared for college or postsecondary plans. Many of them lacked access to the resources needed to understand the college application process better. There was a consensus among those who answered that their decision to choose the college they went to was affected by their support system in high school. Students who answered this question stated that they felt they couldn’t attend their reach schools due to lack of information. 

Overall, students are in favor of having active interventions to help prepare them after high school. The consistent theme of inadequate information and support suggests that many students, particularly those from first-generation backgrounds, are at a disadvantage.When asked about the type of active interventions that could be added to classrooms, most were in favor of having a college readiness course added to the curriculum. Implementing a college readiness class as an elective would allow students the option to expand their knowledge of the college application process further and allow them to see their postsecondary options once they graduate. This class would solely be a pass/fail class that will allow students to have the knowledge needed once they become seniors and begin applications. It will also allow them to understand their financial options, which is something that often stumps a lot of high school students. This class can also include guest speakers from different colleges, careers, and financial aid experts, which would provide students with personal insights and guidance from professionals. By implementing a college readiness class like this, high schools can equip students with the tools and information necessary to navigate the complexities of post-secondary plans.

In addition to the desire for a college readiness course, many students also expressed the need for mentorship programs. They believed that having consistent guidance and support throughout their high school years could significantly impact their college preparedness. As research has shown having a mentor guiding you in the transition from high school into college can be extremely helpful. Implementing a mentorship program within high schools would provide a sense of support for students amongst students who also had to go through this process. This would especially be helpful for first-generation college students who often do not have a parental figure to help them with the application process. A mentorship program could pair students with alumni or older peers who have successfully navigated the college application process or have similar career plans. This direct guidance and support can offer valuable insights, encouragement, and advice needed for students. This would especially help students who otherwise may find it hard to receive direct support, especially when they are first-generation.

Lastly, there was a notable emphasis on the importance of personalized counseling sessions. Students expressed the desire for individualized attention to address their unique needs and challenges in navigating the college application process.

Overall, the feedback from students shows the necessity for active strategies within high schools to ensure that all students, especially first-generation college students, have equal access to resources and support for their postsecondary goals. By implementing college readiness courses, personalized counseling, and mentorship programs, high schools can provide the support necessary to help all students successfully transition after high school.


Active interventions empower first-generation students to make informed college decisions aligned with their academic and career goals. By enhancing college readiness skills, as well as information about post-secondary plans, these interventions would give students the tools necessary to thrive after high school. Moving forward, it is essential for there to be efforts among the NYC DOE, high schools, and the community in order to expand and enhance active interventions for first-generation students. Supporting teachers, using technology to connect and assist students, and pushing for policies that make college accessible and affordable are just some steps toward creating a more inclusive and supportive educational system. It should be a system that will support students from all backgrounds. 

Active interventions in high schools are important in helping high school students feel more prepared once they graduate. By addressing the unique challenges faced by first-generation students through one-on-one guidance counseling, peer mentoring, and academic support, such as a college readiness course, these interventions will help increase college access and success. As interventions continue to be enhanced and placed into the school system, it is important to prioritize inclusivity and the opinion of students. By doing so, we can create a more equitable educational system where all students, including first-generation students, have the opportunity to thrive and achieve in their career aspirations.

Works Cited

“Are you a First Generation Student?” Center for First Generation Student Success, 2020,

“Applying to College” NYC DOE, New York City Department of Education, 2024,

Bundy, Jawanza. “Effective Strategies to Improve the College-Going Process of Black Students Considering Nursing Education: A Case Study Approach.” Nurse Education Today, vol. 118, 2022,

Glass, Leah E. “Social Capital and First-Generation College Students: Examining the Relationship Between Mentoring and College Enrollment.” Education and Urban Society, vol. 55, no. 2, 2023, pp. 143–174,

Hamilton, Ilana. “ 56% Of All Undergraduates Are First-Generation College Students.” Forbes, 2023,

Holland, Megan M. “Trusting Each Other: Student-Counselor Relationships in Diverse High Schools.” Sociology of Education, vol. 88, no. 3, 2015, pp. 244–262,

Schwartz, Sarah E. O., et al. “‘I’m Having a Little Struggle With This, Can You Help Me Out?’: Examining Impacts and Processes of a Social Capital Intervention for First‐Generation College Students.” American Journal of Community Psychology, vol. 61, no. 1–2, 2018, pp. 166–178,