Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

School

Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Jason K. Wallace

Committee Chair School

Education

Abstract

First-generation college students are students whose parents did not attend or graduate college. Therefore, these students are the first in their family to attend and/or graduate college and are likely to face immense challenges such as lack of academic, financial, and/or social support or guidance. Although previous studies have examined their experiences, many have not given voices to the actual students themselves. This qualitative study aimed to change that and add to the field by interviewing 6 first-generation college students at a four-year, public, predominately white university, on their experiences of college. The findings of this study included answers to the following research questions: What are the needs of first-generation college students? What kind of support do first-generation college students need in order to succeed in college? What is helpful to first-generation students during their time at the university? How could the university improve the experiences of first-generation college students? Three major themes emerged throughout the study, which include: 1) Experiences of feeling pressured and/or anxiety as a first-generation college student, 2) Experiences in overcoming academic, social, and financial challenges, and 3) Experiences with Covid-19 related issues. Students also provided helpful recommendations on how colleges can help improve their overall college experience and success. Ultimately, the findings of this study can: 1) help and motivate future first-generation college students of diverse backgrounds towards success, and 2) equip higher education administrators, faculty, and staff with the tools needed to better support first-generation college students and their success moving forward.

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