Ethnic minority students experience additional challenges in higher education that may lead to negative adjustment during college. Academic success and psychological adjustment during the first year of college support college completion. Many scholars emphasize that college is a unique period of identity exploration, increased instability, possibilities, and self-focus. As college students explore and negotiate their sense of self as independent adults, students, and future employees, there may be specific factors that are especially important for academic success during the transition to college. Understanding predictors of student adjustment helps policy makers and higher education institutions develop evidence-based policy aimed at supporting the success of minority college students. In this study, we explored a new potential predictor along with well-established predictors of academic success in a sample of ethnic minority first year college students (n = 942). We investigated the predictive contribution of first-choice college (i.e. students being at their first choice university) to student adjustment and if it may be a protective factor for first-generation college students’ academic achievement. We also examined the associations between well-established predictors (e.g. past achievement, first-generation college student status, ethnic identity, depression, positive psychological adjustment, substance use, motivational factors, and personality traits) and academic success. Individuals at their first-choice college had significantly positive psychological adjustment than students not at their first-choice college. However, first-choice college was not associated with GPA, depressive symptoms, or substance use. Findings suggest, however, a significant, negative interaction where first-generation college students at their first-choice college were performing worse academically than first-generation college students not at their first-choice college. In relation to other well-established predictors of academic success, results varied and explained 13-14% of the variance in academic success for ethnic minority college students. Although results were not consistent, overall, first-choice college did not increase the variance explained. Variation in results of well-established predictors demonstrate the importance of replication methods and samples with enough power to detect effects.
University of Minnesota M.A. thesis. 2019. Major: Psychology. Advisor: Moin Syed. 1 computer file (PDF); 82 pages.
Precollege predictors of first year academic success and psychological adjustment in a sample of ethnic minority college students: Implications of first-choice college.
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