Although of first-generation students will drop out of college

Although
the interest of attending college has increased substantially over the years
among high school students, this is not the case for all students.
First-generation students continue to lag behind and it is something that should
not be left in the abyss. There are a number of factors that play a role in the
academic decisions to be taken by first-generation students, some of which many
non-first –generation students do not have to face. For instance,
socio-economic backgrounds, the social support and involvement they receive
from their families and peers, and their parents’ education level, are all
factors that may contribute to shifting a first-generation student’s attitudes
towards pursuing an undergraduate degree. 
Due to the added hardships that first-generation students face, it is
not unanticipated that they will, in average, have lower college academic
performance, and will have a more difficult time adjusting and committing to
college when compared to their non-first-generation counterparts. It is
important to assess the weight particular factors have in the academic outcomes
and attitudes of first-generation students in order to bridge a gap in the
disparities between first-generation students and their peers.

Review of Literature

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            While there are many definitions for
what being a first-generation student entails, for this study, first-generation
students are defined as those who are the first among their immediate family to
attend a 4-year college or university. Unfortunately, first-generation students
are highly underrepresented among college going students. For instance, a 2001
NCES study found that although 82 percent of high school non-first-generation
students enrolled in college immediately after graduating high school, only 54
percent of those whose parents graduated high school enrolled in college after
finishing high school, and only 36 percent of those whose parents’ completed
less than a high school degree, enrolled in college (Choy, 2001). It is clear
that parents’ education level has a direct effect on the motivation a high
school student may have towards attending college as those with parents who
partook in the college experience had higher college enrollment rates than the
students whose parents did not attend college. Approximately 25 % of students
drop out of college by the end of their first year, but it is much more
astounding that 50 % of first-generation students will drop out of college by
the end of their first year, which is a great discrepancy that should
definitely not be left ignored (Ishitani, 2006).

            There are a number of components
that can be thought to influence the given statistics, such as: socioeconomic
background, course-taking patterns, high school characteristics, parents’
education level, and the support they receive from their peers and environment
to continue through the path of higher education. From an early age, most
first-generation students lack the motivation to attend college, according to
Choy and colleagues, first-generation students are reported to have lower
educational expectations than their peers as early as 8th grade and
are overall less prepared to go through the whole college process. Such
expectations may be due to the lack of exposure a first-generation students have
to educated professionals at home. For instance, those who are the first to
attend college in their family are overall less knowledgeable about college
tuition costs, taking out loans, the application process (York-Anderson et al.,
1992), and tend to have a less demanding academic preparation in high school
(Warburton, Bugarin, & Nunez, 2001). While academic performance seems to be
one of the greatest elements in predicting the success of first-generation
student in attending college, psychosocial elements are also important
determinants on college enrollment (Barry et al., 2009). The fact that the
parents of first-generation students lack knowledge encompassing the college
experience may pose a great obstacle for these students since their parents
cannot help them directly with college tasks (Dennis et al., 2003).

            All in all, the literature on
first-generation college students illustrates them as being at a disadvantage
as they are seen to lack both personal skills and social supports that can
contribute to a successful academic performance. According to Dennis and
colleagues, the academic success of college students is primarily a result of
personal characteristics, such as mental ability, academic skills, motivation,
and goals, but most importantly the characteristics of the environment they
grew up in, such as face-to-face interaction with, support from family and
peers, and cultural values. Nevertheless, it is clear that the social support
students perceive from family, peers, and their environment is most predictive
of their attitudes towards college and their overall experience. This study
aims to investigate the discrepancies in social support (motivational and
environmental) perceived by first-generation college students and their
non-first-generation counterparts and how their attitudes towards college and
their overall experience is affected as a result. This will be done by
analyzing grade point averages, adjustment to college, and commitment to
college as predictors. Career/personal expectations, along with two types of
social support (perceived family and peer support) and the lack of needed
support from family and peers will be assessed in this study in order to assess
their effects.

Hypothesis

            Ho: Perceived social support will
have the same influence on the academic performance of first-generation
students and non-first-generation students.

            Ha: Perceived social support will
have a greater influence on the academic performance of first-generation
students. 

            We hypothesized that motivation
along with family/peer social support, will be most predictive of college
academic performance, adjustment to college, and commitment to college for
first-generation students. First-generation students are more prone to report
negative college experiences, dropping out of college, and most importantly,
lack needed support from family and peers who have already gone through
college.