Book by Jeff Davis
Review by Crystal “Nikki” Gay
Academic Advisor, Department of Psychological Science
Georgia College & State University

Jeff Davis states early in The First-Generation Student Experience that the book had two intentions: define first-generation college students and provide ways to help these students persist to graduation. 

If we are to determine how many first-generation students are on campus then we must first determine what constitutes a first-generation student. Davis discusses different definitions and methods used to count these students. In what he described as the “heart of the book” (p. xvi), Davis moved beyond counting these students to focus on personal narratives written by 14 first-generation students. These narratives provided insight into the struggles faced by first-generation students and allowed readers to see common issues while reminding us that each student is an individual from a different background and with different challenges. 

The second purpose of the book was to provide recommendations for policies and procedure that can help these students succeed. In the beginning Davis defined the group of interest including their differences from other groups as well as their similarities. Then he looked at the needs of this particular student group and what is needed if they are to succeed. From there he made recommendations that illustrate “how higher-education institutions can construct policies and practices so that first-generation students can begin graduation at a rate approaching that of their non-first-generation counterparts” (p. 178). Davis discussed how helping these first-generation students persist to graduation affects the overall graduation rate for the institution (p. 178). This knowledge is useful for advisors and administrators alike.

The information in this book can be valuable to advisors and administrators who work in colleges with a large number of first-generation students. Even advisors who may not work with large numbers of first-generation students will find the information interesting and transferrable to other student groups. The process Davis described can be utilized with other student groups, for example transfer students. What needs do transfer students have that non-transfer student do not? What policies or procedures could be put into place to help transfer students? 

This book was helpful in two key ways. First Davis creates an awareness of the needs of first-generation students and provided a list of recommendations. Secondly this book opens readers’ minds to searching for other student groups who might have greater success in persisting to graduation with the help of some well targeted policies.

The first-generation student experience: Who they are, their characteristics, and strategies for improving their persistence and success. (2010). Book by Jeff Davis. Review by Crystal “Nikki” Gay. Herndon, VA: Stylus Publishing. 222pp., $29.95, ISBN # 978-1-57922-370-0
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