Speech outline format

Topic: Challenges for College Students
A. Attention material/Credibility Material: Do you ever sit in class and look at your fellow students thinking “Man, they must have it made”. B. Tie to the audience: As college students, any of you may be able to identify with the particular challenges faced by a variety of other students, or you may feel like you are alone in the challenges you encounter. C. Thesis and Preview: Today I’d like to talk to you about some of the challenges faced by college students who are considered first-generation students, non-traditional students, and students from rural communities. [Transition into body of speech]: I’ll begin by telling you about first-generation college students.


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A. The U.S. Department of Education defines a first-generation student as an undergraduate whose parents have never enrolled in higher education. Several characteristics identify first-generation students. They are more likely to be female, are usually older than traditional aged college students, have dependents, come from low economic backgrounds, and work more hours than traditional college students.

1. Kohler-Giancola found that first-generation students are less psychologically prepared for college, receive less family and peer support, choose colleges based on proximity and cost, and are more likely than their peers to focus their educations on gaining job skills.

2. One of the most significant challenges often facing first-generation students is the lack of a supportive network outside of the college campus because their families lack experience with institutions of higher education. The lack of a supportive network can negatively affect student persistence especially when students work full-time and have dependents; as is the case for so many college students.

3. In addition, Barry found that first-generation students have lower levels of stress disclosure due to a lack of a social network because many families and peers of first-generation students lack experience that could otherwise support first-generation students in dealing with some of their stressors. [Transition: I am sure that many of you may be classified as
first-generation students so you have first-hand knowledge of some of the challenges they face when they go to college. Another group of students who often face significant challenges are nontraditional students.]

B. Researchers have defined nontraditional students using a variety of relative factors. Kim found that nontraditional students may be qualified by age (usually 25 years old or older), or by background characteristics such as income, first-generation status, employment status, as well as family responsibilities, and race or ethnicity. Still other definitions focus on factors such as independence from parents and others. Any number of these factors could be used to classify a student as nontraditional.

1. Jinkens found that age may not be an effective measure of whether or not a student should be categorized as nontraditional. It is reasonable that a student’s perspective would be a more effective measure.

2. Jinkens distinguishes nontraditional students from traditional students. Nontraditional students are those who are more interested in the knowledge that can be gained by completing individual courses where as traditional students seem to be more interested in completing one course to advance to the next. For Jinkens, nontraditional students could be any age, however, their motivations are grounded in life experiences such as work experience, having dependent children, or starting a family. In Jinken’s study, traditional students did not have those experiences and often needed more encouragement to stay motivated.

3. In light of evidence that age is not necessarily an effective measure for categorizing nontraditional students, a study focusing on students 50 years or older revealed feelings of separation, isolation and anxiety when grouped with younger more traditional-aged college students. Scott and Lewis found that while older students report higher levels of anxiety upon entering the classroom, they quickly make connections with faculty and have a better rapport with those faculty and students in their same age group. [Transition: You can see that it may be difficult for first-generation and nontraditional students.

Now let’s look at students who come from rural communities and some of the challenges they face.] C. Students from rural communities, whether they attend a rural or urban college may also face significant challenges. Courrege found that students who come from rural communities may lack a supportive network because sometimes their families pressure them to stay in the community where employment opportunities are often limited. 1. Social class and financial resources seem to negatively impact persistence for rural students.

Wells’ research indicates that students with lower levels of social and cultural capital (otherwise known as a supportive network) are less likely to persist; however, students with lower levels of support have higher rates of persistence at community colleges than they do at four-year universities. In addition, many rural students are first-generation and nontraditional students.


A. Signal the end of the speech: As you can easily see, many students face significant challenges when they first enter college. B. Summary: Today, I’ve told you about some of the significant challenges faced by first-generation, nontraditional, and rural students when they go to college.

C. Tie Back to the Audience: What if the person sitting next to you in class faces the same challenges you do?

D. Concluding Remarks: I’m going to leave you with the knowledge that has resulted from the variety of researchers who have studied the challenges different college students encounter. According to Olive and Tinto, successful college students are those who are academically and socially integrated into the college community. A good education requires sacrifices. Whatever challenges you face as a student, just know that you are not the only one.

Barry, L.M. (2009). Differences in self-reported disclosure of college experience by first-generation college student status. Adolescence, 44, 173, 55-68. Courrege, D. (2011). Push to help rural students leap cultural barriers to college. Education Week, 31,6,1-13. Jinkens, R.C. (2009). Nontraditional students: ‘Who are they?’ College Student Journal, 43, (4), 979-987. Kim, K.A. (2002). ERIC review: Exploring the meaning of nontraditional at the community college. Community College Review, 30, (1), 74-90. Kohler-Giancola, J. (2008).

First-versus continuing-generation adult students on college perceptions: Are differences actually because of demographic variance? Adult Education Quarterly, 58, (3), 214-228. doi: 10.1117/0741713608314088 Olive, T. (2008). Desire for higher education in first-generation Hispanic college students enrolled in an academic support program: A phenomenological analysis. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 39, 81-110. doi: 10.1163/156916208×311638 Scott, L.M. & Lewis, C.W. (2012). Nontraditional college students: Assumptions, perceptions, and directions for a meaningful academic experience. The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 6, (4), 1-10. Tinto, V. (1993).

Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. U.S Department of Education (2008). Community colleges: special supplement to the condition of education 2008 (NCES 2008-033). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Services, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Wells, R. (2008). The effects of social and cultural capital on students’ persistence: Are community colleges more meritocratic? Community College Review, 36, 1, 25-46. ©2013 By Renee Laney (Do NOT use any part of this outline without permission from the author)

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