Promoting self-efficacy among non-traditional students
One of the greatest challenges to a lot of students who identify with traditionally underrepresented groups is simply feeling like they can succeed in college. Feelings of doubt are perpetuated by many systems of oppression. The media chooses to create movies, TV shows, and news stories that portray college as a place for white, 18-25 year old, able-bodied, straight, middle-income and above, American students to learn, socialize, and succeed. The K-12 education system has created systems to identify certain students (most often ones who identify with traditional college students) as “college material” and confine others to lesser pursuits. Political figures have supported these systems and created policies that promote such practices.
Given all of the systems working against them, it is no surprise that many students arrive on campuses already wondering if they belong in college. There are several things that student affairs professionals can do to help address these feelings.
◊ I think one of the most important things that must be done is to fully and publicly acknowledge the systems of oppression that create this lack of self-efficacy among non-traditional populations. Staff, faculty, and students of all backgrounds and identities must recognize the isms that create the unique needs and feelings of non-traditional students
◊ Non-traditional students must be able to affirm the challenges that they face when entering higher education and find inclusive environments to share their the feelings of inadequacy they may experience. This support should not only come for staff members who specialize in areas of multiculturalism and work with diverse populations, but from the college community as a whole.
◊ Academic preparation programs geared towards non-traditional student populations must employ staff and faculty who can address issues of self-efficacy in sensitive ways. Using motivational interviewing may help them gain insight into students’ feeling and plans for being successful and help them develop individualized plans to help students persist despite set-backs, including those impacted by their identity as non-traditional.
◊ Non-traditional students must be introduced to either personally or through scholarly work to people of non-traditional identities that have succeeded in academics and life in general. Having examples of others who have overcome the systems of oppression and set-back of non-traditional students is incredibly important to promoting self-efficacy among incoming students.
◊ Support services, clubs, and cultural centers that focus on the needs of non-traditional students must intentionally celebrate the academic and personal successes of students that partake in their services. These celebrations create a formal venue for other students to recognize that they too can be successful and promotes an expectation of academic excellence for student who might not otherwise expect the same from themselves.
Ultimately these programs and others should promote a feeling by all students that their university supports and expects them to succeed. This feeling should in turn promote self-efficacy.