Paths to success: A comparison of the strategies and social supports of first-generation and non-first-generation college students
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This study examines the consistency of students’ self-identification as first-generation or non-first-generation status with that definition which defines a first-generation student as one whose parents have no more than a high school education. It explores the connections between this self-identification, and the student’s support networks, support definitions, and resources used to make friends while in college. The study was carried out at a large southwestern university, and the sample was recruited from a sociology capstone course that consisted of graduating sociology majors (N=20). The data were collected through semi-structured one-time interviews that took 30-60 minutes and an analysis of the respondents' self-described support networks. The results of this study show that one of the definitions used in the literature and employed here to identify students of first-generation college students remains lacking in its ability to identify the components of the first-generation status that would allow a more accurate and realistic definition to be created. Specifically, it was found that those students who perceived themselves as first-generation college students have less diverse networks, focus more on emotional, financial, and social supports in their support definitions, and report using dormitories, class, and work as their main venues for making friends. Non-first-generation students have more diverse networks, focus more on emotional, financial, advisory, and academic support in their support definitions, and report using networking through friends, dorms, extracurricular activities, high school friends, and class as resources used to make friends.