The focus of this paper is two-fold: to present data from a research project which explores the expectations/reality mismatches of first year students who were first in the family to attend university and to outline two different approaches that address the needs of beginning students. Undoubtedly, most new students arriving at university experience varying degrees of ‘culture shock’ when their expectations fail to match the reality they encounter. However, for students from equity backgrounds and those who are the first in family, this mismatch can be immense. Many of the expectations presumed both prior to arrival at university and during the initial stages of study may remain hidden or unexplained. There is now widespread recognition of the need to provide improved preparation and support for students entering the tertiary sector. A key implication for each university must be to establish a ‘community of practice’ that serves to initiate new students into its institutional culture.