Our Approach

What We Know

More than one-third of all entering undergraduates—nearly 5 million students—identify as being the first in their family to pursue a four-year college degree. Yet, once enrolled, first-generation students often struggle to succeed. They persist and graduate at far lower rates than their continuing generation peers, with just 27 percent of first-generation undergraduate students earning a bachelor’s degree within four years. Many say they feel isolated and out of place on campus. They perceive unwritten rules in higher education that everyone else seems to know but them.

Scholars on stairs
thank you sign

Opportunity for Change

For too long, first-generation college students have often been described as “at-risk” and “underprepared.” The Kessler Scholars Program model flips that script. At the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, we view students’ first-generation identity as an asset. We recognize and honor students’ cultural knowledge and capabilities. We celebrate the diverse pathways that have led them to college and to the Kessler Scholars Program. The Kessler Scholars Program is built around practices drawn from empirical research and shown to be effective in supporting first-generation student success.

Our Program Model

We provide first-generation college students with transformative support across their undergraduate experience. Through a comprehensive, cohort-based program design, Kessler Scholars receive critical support to foster their academic, personal, and professional development and to help assure their success in college and beyond. The Kessler Scholars Program model recognizes the importance of student voice and input in program design as well as the role of skilled professional staff who connect students with important resources and support their exploration of experiential learning opportunities shown to improve college success outcomes. The Kessler Scholars Program model is built around these core goals: