Ask About Me: The Self-Efficacy of First-Generation Students

Ask About Me: The Self-Efficacy of First-Generation Students

Ivanna Damaris Colon-Alverio, Kelsey Johnson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5039-0.ch002
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


This chapter will serve as a literature review of first-generation college students. The authors will discuss the definition of being first-generation. Additionally, there will be concentration on the barriers faced at both the pre-college and college levels, along with recommendations for individual and institutional support. To further highlight the self-efficacy of first-generation students, personal narratives will be used to tell their stories about their own experiences. Lastly, using a strengths-based model approach, the authors will uncover what institutions can do to recruit but retain this student population.
Chapter Preview


College enrollment has dropped across the country, with undergraduate enrollment down four percent in 2020 compared to 2019 and first-time student enrollment down 16.1 percent nationally (Sutton, 2021). With fewer students deciding to pursue higher education, colleges and universities risk the loss of revenue and other long-term consequences. As a result, schools must reassess how to prepare, recruit, and offer services to attract more students and specific populations.

One student population receiving considerable attention is FGS or students whose parents do not have more than a high school education (Swecker et al., 2013). The definition of FGS is disputed among researchers; however, there is consensus that FGS face a disadvantage in their college education compared to their non-first-generation peers. FGS lack critical knowledge of the higher education process creating more significant challenges in transitioning to college and threatening persistence to a degree (Westbrook and Scott, 2012). One-third of all higher education students identify as FGS (Cataldi et al., 2018). FGS are a large student population with well-documented barriers; therefore, education institutions must reconsider how they serve the FGS population at all levels of education to ensure their readiness and encourage their enrollment and retainment.

The research presents first-generation status as a deficit that students must overcome before achieving success. However, FGS come to college campuses with unique skills, assets, and motivations that help them succeed (Mincozzi & Roda, 2020). In addition, the campus environment has also been found to positively influence the sense of belonging in FGS (Museus & Chang, 2021). Therefore, instead of focusing on FGS struggles, high school and college staff should try to develop their strengths and create environments that validate their abilities and increase their self-efficacy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Retention: To keep a student continuously enrolled in college.

Post-Secondary Planning: Developing a plan to figure out the next steps after high school graduation.

Persistence: The desire to continuously keep going even in the face of barriers and challenges.

First-Generation Student: A student whose biological parents have not received a bachelor's degree from a four-year institution in the United States.

Attrition: A measurement to define the number of college students who leave the institution before receiving their degree.

College Readiness: Process of teaching students the academic, social, emotional, and financial skills needed to be successful in college.

Barriers: Any challenge that keeps a student from successfully completing their studies.

Self-Efficacy: The belief that one can perform or complete a certain task.

Institutional Support: A set of practices and programs that help students succeed academically, socially, emotionally, and financially at the high school and college levels.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: