First-generation students, those who are the first in their family to earn a college degree, represent one of the fastest-growing populations of college students in our country today. Unfortunately, this segment of our nation's college-going population also happens to be the least successful, according to national retention and graduation statistics. Despite the considerable contributions of existing research and initiatives to better understand low-income, first-generation students, one important view of the achievement gap has been ignored. Relatively little attention has been paid to the factors affecting high-achieving, first-generation students' academic success. Most research in this area has focused on revealing the barriers these students face. Many negative factors have been well identified regarding low-income, first-generation college students' academic achievement. While the majority of low-income, first-generation students are not succeeding in higher education, there are many who are. This study explores the common characteristics and dimensions of high-achieving, low-income, first-generation students through a qualitative, multi-case study design. Interviews were conducted with twenty college students participating in mentoring programs at two private, Catholic colleges in the Midwest. An exploratory phenomenological methodology was chosen because it had the best potential to capture the lived experiences of program participants. As a result of the research, several contributing factors leading first-generation students to success were identified: Family support, academic preparedness, and personal drive to succeed. The study's findings suggest that when students have the right support: familial, academic, and programmatic, they will succeed at higher numbers than their peers who are also first-generation.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Karen Seashore. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 146 pages, appendices A-B.
Hegrenes, Stefanie A..
Pathways to success in higher education: understanding the influence of mentoring programs on first-generation students.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.