Carleton’s TRIO office is federally funded to support 140 students. Eligible students are selected through an application process, typically the summer before or winter break of their first year. We provide a number of services, including academic, personal, and career support. As faculty, staff, and advisors, you can help connect students to resources they need to thrive.

TRIO/SSS Participation graphic. 21.6% of Carleton students are TRIO-eligible. TRIO serves 30% of eligible students.

Low-Income and First-Generation Students at Carleton

The 2016 working group report on low-income and first-generation experiences at Carleton highlighted common challenges and suggested action items to improve experiences and outcomes. The experiences and suggestions echo the published literature, and some seemingly small efforts can have a big positive impact. It’s important to recognize the added pressures (personal, family, financial, etc.) many low-income and first-generation students experience, so you can provide well-informed guidance along the way. 

The following considerations can increase student learning in your classroom, even though only the “teaching resources” section directly relates to course content. Additional strategies to address socioeconomic differences are also available.

Academic and Social Preparation: Creating an Inclusive Environment

Many students (of all backgrounds) feel academically and socially under-prepared for Carleton. These are normal feelings but can be isolating when students think they are the only ones having difficulty transitioning to college. It helps for students to know that they are not alone and that the experience will improve with time.

In fact, a growth-mindset, where students understand that their current academic performance, intelligence, and sense of belonging are not fixed and will improve over time, has incredible academic benefits (e.g. Yeager & Wolton, 2011).

Actionable strategies for faculty & staff:


Individual support and attention is a powerful positive influence on student persistence in college (e.g. Komives and Woodard, 2001) and student-faculty relationships are particularly crucial (e.g. Kuh et al., 2006). Advising sessions are a time to check in and connect with a student’s whole Carleton experience, and to refer them to any additional resources and support that may be appropriate.

Teaching Resources

In addition to creating a supportive environment and self-regulated learning techniques (discussed above), many of Kuh’s High-Impact Educational Practices disproportionately positively impact TRIO students:Engage students in research

Connect content to socially relevant topics (such as teaching with context-rich problems, academic civic engagement)

Highlight career paths available to students

Get Involved With TRIO

By collaborating, we can both increase our impact on students. Here are some of the ways to connect with TRIO:

  • Sign up to receive the TRIO Newsletter
  • Attend an event with TRIO (Class Act is a good one!)
  • Volunteer to be a TRIO mentor
  • Invite TRIO staff to your department meeting
  • Submit a profile for the First Generation Directory (if you were a FG student)
  • Contact us with questions!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is TRIO?

The Carleton College TRIO/SSS program assists participants in overcoming social, cultural, financial, personal, academic, and other challenges to fully participate in the life of the college and ultimately achieve the goal of graduation. A crucial aspect of the program is to increase awareness of socioeconomic class issues and challenges at Carleton with the purpose of impacting policies, framing Carleton values, activities, and decisions to help develop an environment where TRIO eligible students can thrive.

Learn more about the program.

Does TRIO serve all low-income and first-generation students at Carleton?

No. TRIO serves approximately 30-40% of the eligible student population. Each year we have to turn down applicants because we are only funded to serve 130 students total.

How do I know whether a student is in TRIO?

Unless a student self-discloses their participation to faculty (something we encourage but don’t require), you likely won’t know. If you have questions or concerns about any students and wonder whether they’re in our program, please contact us and/or the Dean of Students Office.

As a faculty member, how can I best serve TRIO students?

  • Create an inclusive classroom that acknowledges and values the varied experiences of students
  • Avoid generalizations or assumptions
  • Engage in consistent and continuing dialogue about differences and socioeconomic status
  • Attend TRIO-sponsored events, such as Class Act
  • Volunteer to be a TRIO mentor

What are some of the challenges TRIO students face?

TRIO-eligible students face the same challenges all other students face: leaving family and friends, adapting to the rigors of Carleton, and learning about who they are (and want to be) after high school. However, TRIO-eligible students often face other challenges, as identified by Norma Perez-Kahler, EdD:

  • Absence of role models and guidance along the way
  • Lack of trust in society — others different from themselves
  • Feel the pressure to succeed (way out)
  • Feel isolated — “the only one experiencing all that lack of knowledge”
  • Do not know what to expect
  • No one to answer questions and help them navigate the system

References and Background