Ways to support your SSS students in/out of the classroom

Student Support Services (SSS) is a federally funded program and part of a suite of programs called TRIO. Our mission is to increase the academic achievement of first-generation, low-income students, and students with disabilities. SSS students often need more support and care than non-SSS students in class, especially when they are online. 

Here are ten things instructors should keep in mind when teaching an SSS student:

  1. Our students have many identities and backgrounds. They can be one or more of the following: First Generation Students, low-income, or have a documented disability. While trying to balance these identities, what they “all seem to share is a lack of knowledge about how higher education works” (Moody, 2019). They may experience stigma or discrimination based on their disability, low-income background, or first-generation status.
  2. First-generation college students are the first in their families to attend college; they usually lack prior exposure to college culture and may need additional support to navigate the academic environment. They don’t know what they don’t know, so directing them and telling them about any available resources (tutoring, writing labs, office hours for extra help, etc.) is helpful. They may also benefit from mentorship and guidance from faculty and staff who can help them navigate the challenges of college life.
  3. They may have experienced personal or family challenges like homelessness or domestic violence.
  4. They may have financial difficulties and struggle to afford college costs (especially books or lab kits), even with financial aid and working full- or part-time while attending college.
  5. They are motivated, have a strong work ethic, and are determined to succeed despite obstacles.
  6. They may experience imposter syndrome, feeling as if they don’t belong in different environments or roles in and outside of campus, despite being active in these roles.
  7. They may require accommodations in the classroom to help with their disability, such as note-taking assistance or extended time on exams.
  8. They may have limited access to technology or internet access, impacting their ability to complete coursework and participate in online learning.
  9. They may have limited access to transportation, impacting their ability to attend classes or participate in extracurricular activities.
  10. They may have difficulty advocating for themselves and appropriately communicating with faculty. College is often the first time many of them have these types of relationships with adults, and they may be scared to ask for help or not know how to communicate with faculty that they need help. If you find they are struggling, tell them directly they can come to office hours or send an email asking for help at any time.

Despite the challenges that an SSS student may face, we have seen many students redefine what is possible at TRIO. To hear about some of our success stories, visit the Student Support Services website.
If you know a student who would benefit from our support and resources, please refer them to us. Once we receive the referral form, we will follow up with the student with more information about our program as well as steps for applying to TRIO. We look forward to helping as many students as possible achieve their academic and career goals.


Moody, J. (2019, May 14). What to Know as a First-Generation College Student. US News & World Report.

Megan Anderson

Comprehensive Advisor at Student Support Services

Megan Anderson is a Comprehensive Advisor at Student Support Services. She has a Bachelor of Music Education from Eastern Michigan University and taught middle school Music 5 years before switching to her position at UAF.

Dulce Villasenor

Program Specialist at Student Support Services

Dulce Villasenor is the Program Specialist at Student Support Services. She will be graduating this Spring from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics. After graduating, she will continue her role at Student Support Services.

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