Helping first-generation students succeed, from someone who knows

Loren Snyder knows what it’s like to be first.

The first in his family to adjust to on-campus life, to manage a college class schedule, to adjust to rigorous engineering curriculum, and the first to earn a bachelor’s degree.

When he came to Colorado State University in 1967, he was valedictorian of his high school graduating class and a Boettcher scholar. His strength in math and interest in devices and machines led him to major in mechanical engineering. Despite his success in high school – county science fair champion three years in a row, more than a 4.0 GPA, and student council president – the college experience was a challenge.

“My mom was a big supporter of education, but I had no role modeling from my parents of what a big university experience was like,” said Snyder. “I had no clue how I was going to do it.”

The math curriculum at Snyder’s small high school in Cheraw, Colorado didn’t include analytical trigonometry or geometry, so he was placed in a remedial math class his first semester at CSU. With the help of his math whiz roommate and mentoring from supportive teaching assistants, he was able to catch up and graduate first in his class in 1971.

Support for first-generation students

Like Snyder, first-generation students continue to face unique social, academic, and financial challenges, stemming from the fact that their parents don’t have the college experience to help guide them through these issues. Today, there are campus resources like the Institute for Learning and Teaching, the Collaborative for Student Achievement, and others, all geared toward helping students achieve success.

“CSU didn’t have a lot of these support programs back then. I think it’s really important to have those, especially for first-generation students,” he said.

As an alumnus of the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering and a first-generation student, Snyder recognizes the importance of supporting those who are the first in their family to go to college. For the 2018 Love Your State Day of Giving, he is giving back to first-generation engineering students by donating $5,000 to support the college’s First-Generation Scholarship.Love Your State Day of Giving

Through the First-Generation University Initiative, the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering is part of a campus-wide effort on behalf of these students. Financial help, through the college’s First-Generation Scholarship and other funds, plays a big part in helping students achieve their goals. Snyder encourages students to seek out other forms of support, too.

“Search out and take advantage of the help that’s available, especially mentoring and peer groups,” he said. “Get out of your comfort zone and get involved in extracurricular activities.”