Summer Bridges Barriers for First-Generation Students

Elizabeth Chapin



Students in Chico State’s Summer Bridge program
Students in Chico State’s Summer Bridge program.

For 30 years, thousands of first-generation college students have spent the summer before their freshman year living and studying on California State University campuses—developing the skills they need to transition to college life during CSU Summer Bridge.

CSU Summer Bridge programs are run through campus Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP), which provide academic and logistical support to first-generation students from low-income or underserved families. Students accepted into EOP are required to go through a summer bridge program before they enter their freshman year.

During Summer Bridge, students attend intensive developmental classes to attain college readiness in English and math. Campuses that offer a Summer Bridge program with an English and math component can use this to fulfill CSU Early Start requirements if the student is eligible.

The program offers much more than English and math remediation. Students meet with mentors, attend university lectures and participate in a variety of workshops and presentations to get acquainted with college life. They also finalize housing plans, complete financial aid applications and register for fall courses.

Summer Bridge also focuses on the unique needs of first-generation college students, says Chico State’s Director of Early Outreach and Support Programs Chela Mendoza Patterson

“Our Summer Bridge students are required to learn about campus etiquette, study skills and even money management,” Patterson said. “These skills contribute to college success and many first-generation students may not have the opportunity to learn them from their families.”

Campuses tailor their programs to accommodate the needs of local student populations. For example, CSU Northridge offers a program for commuting students in addition to a residential program.

CSUN EOP Director Jose Luis Vargas says 200 are students enrolled in the commuter program this year in addition to 130 students in the residential program. Although the commuter program may be more practical for nearby students with work and family obligations, the residential program is where Vargas says students forge lifelong bonds.

“They live in the dorms with their cohort of EOP peers, where they build a long-term learning community that will last throughout their time at CSUN, and beyond,” Vargas said. “Summer Bridge gives these students a support system and a sense of community, as well as optimism and an enthusiasm for learning that continues throughout college.”

For more about Summer Bridge and the EOP Program, visit