Research in Higher Education

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 1–22

First-generation college students: Characteristics, experiences, and cognitive development

  • Patrick T. Terenzini
  • Leonard Springer
  • Patricia M. Yaeger
  • Ernest T. Pascarella
  • Amaury Nora
Article

Abstract

This study sought answers to three questions: (1) Do the precollege characteristics of first-generation students differ from those of traditional students? (2) Do first-generation students' college experiences differ from those of other students? (3) What are the educational consequences of any differences on first-year gains in students' reading, math, and critical thinking abilities? Answers come from 2,685 students (825 first-generation and 1,860 traditional students) who entered 23 diverse institutions nationwide in Fall 1992 and who completed one year of study. First-generation students differ from their traditional peers in both entering characteristics and college experiences. Although traditional students make greater net gains in reading during their first year, the two groups gain to about the same degree in math and critical thinking skills. Those gains, however, appear to result from somewhat different experiences.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. American College Testing Program (1989).Report on the Technical Characteristics of CAAP: Pilot Year 1, 1988–89. Iowa City, IA: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education.Journal of College Student Personnel 25: 297–308.Google Scholar
  3. Attinasi, L. C., Jr. (1989). Mexican Americans' perceptions of university attendance and the implications for freshman year persistence.Journal of Higher Education 60(3): 247–277.Google Scholar
  4. Bean, J. P., and Metzner, B. S. (1985). A conceptual model of nontraditional undergraduate student attrition.Review of Educational Research 55(4): 485–540.Google Scholar
  5. Billson, J. M., and Terry, B. T. (1982). In search of the silken purse: Factors in attrition among first-generation students.College and University 58(1): 57–75.Google Scholar
  6. Conklin, M. E., and Dailey, A. R. (1981). Does consistency of parental encouragement matter for secondary students?Sociology of Education 54(4): 254–262.Google Scholar
  7. Cross, K. P. (1981).Adults as Learners: Increasing Participation and Facilitating Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  8. Hodgkinson, H. L. (1985).All One System: Demographics of Education, Kindergarten Through Graduate School. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership.Google Scholar
  9. Lara, J. (1992). Reflections: Bridging cultures. In L. S. Zwerling and H. B. London (eds.),First-Generation Students: Confronting the Cultural Issues (pp. 65–70). New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 80. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  10. Levine, A., and Associates (1989).Shaping Higher Education's Future: Demographic Realities and Opportunities, 1990–2000. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  11. London, H. B. (1989). Breaking away: A study of first-generation college students and their families.American Journal of Education 97(1): 144–170.Google Scholar
  12. Mow, S. L., and Nettles, M. T. (1990). Minority student access to, and persistence and performance in, college: A review of the trends and research literature. In J. S. Smart (ed.),Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research: (Vol. 6) (pp. 35–105). New York: Agathon.Google Scholar
  13. Murphy, P. E. (1981). Consumer buying roles in college choice: Parents' and students' perceptions.College and University 56(2): 140–150.Google Scholar
  14. Pace, C. R. (1984).Measuring the Quality of College Student Experiences. Los Angeles: University of California, Higher Education Research Institute.Google Scholar
  15. Pantages, T. J., and Creedon, C. F. (1978). Studies of college attrition: 1950–1975.Review of Educational Research 48(1): 49–101.Google Scholar
  16. Pascarella, E. T. (1985). College environmental influences on learning and cognitive development: A critical review and synthesis. In J. Smart (ed.),Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (vol. 1). New York: Agathon.Google Scholar
  17. Pascarella, E. T., Bohr, L., Nora, A., and Terenzini, P. T. (1996). Is differential exposure to college linked to the development of critical thinking?Research in Higher Education 37(2): in press.Google Scholar
  18. Pascarella, E. T., and Terenzini, P. T. (1991).How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  19. Pratt, P. A., and Skaggs, C. T. (1989). First-generation college students: Are they at greater risk for attrition than their peers?Research in Rural Education 6(2): 31–34.Google Scholar
  20. Rendon, L. I. (1992). From the barrio to the academy: Revelations of a Mexican American “scholarship girl.” In L. S. Zwerling and H. B. London (eds.),First-Generation Students: Confronting the Cultural Issues (pp. 55–64). New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 80. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  21. Richardson, R. C., Jr., and Skinner. E. F. (1992). Helping first-generation minority students achieve degrees. In L. S. Zwerling and H. B. London (eds.),First-Generation Students: Confronting the Cultural Issues (pp. 29–43). New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 80. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  22. Rodriguez, R. (1975). Going home again: The new American scholarship boy.American Scholar 44: 15–28.Google Scholar
  23. Rodriguez, R. (1982).Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez—An Autobiography. Boston, MA: Godine.Google Scholar
  24. Skinner, E. F., and Richardson, R. C., Jr. (1988, May/June). Making it in a majority university: The minority graduate's perspective.Change 20(3): 34–42.Google Scholar
  25. Solomon, L. C., and Gordon, J. J. (1981).The Characteristics and Needs of Adults in Postsecondary Education. Lexington, MA: Heath.Google Scholar
  26. Spady, W. G. (1970). Dropouts from higher education: An interdisciplinary review and synthesis.Interchange 1(1): 64–85.Google Scholar
  27. Stage, F. K., and Hossler, D. (1989). Differences in family influences on college attendance plans for male and female ninth graders.Research in Higher Education 30(3), 301–315.Google Scholar
  28. Terenzini, P. T., Rendon, L. I., Upcraft, M. L., Millar, S. B., Allison, K. A., Gregg, P. L., and Jalomo, R. (1994). The transition to college: Diverse students, diverse stories.Research in Higher Education 35(1): 57–73.Google Scholar
  29. Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research.Review of Educational Research 45(1): 89–125.Google Scholar
  30. Tinto, V. (1987).Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  31. Upcraft, M. L. (1996). Teaching and today's college students. In R. Menges and M. Weimer (eds.),Teaching on Solid Ground: Using Scholarship to Improve Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  32. Watson, G., and Glaser, E. (1980).Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  33. Weidman, J. (1989). Undergraduate socialization: A conceptual approach. In J. Smart (ed.),Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (vol. 5). New York: Agathon.Google Scholar
  34. Weis, L. (1985).Between Two Worlds: Black Students in an Urban Community College. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  35. Weis, L. (1992). Discordant voices in the urban community college. In L. S. Zwerling and H. B. London (eds.),First-Generation Students: Confronting the Cultural Issues (pp. 13–27). New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 80. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  36. Winter, D. (1979). Defining and measuring the competencies of a liberal arts education. InCurrent Issues in Higher Education (vol. 5). Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.Google Scholar
  37. Winter, D., McClelland, D., and Stewart, A. (1981).A New Case for the Liberal Arts: Assessing Institutional Goals and Student Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  38. York-Anderson, D. C., and Bowman, S. L. (1991). Assessing the college knowledge of first-generation and second-generation college students.Journal of College Student Development 32(2): 116–122.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick T. Terenzini
    • 1
  • Leonard Springer
    • 2
  • Patricia M. Yaeger
    • 2
  • Ernest T. Pascarella
    • 3
  • Amaury Nora
    • 3
  1. 1.National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (NCTLA)The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.NCTLA—The Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA
  3. 3.National Study of Student LearningNCTLA—University of IllinoisChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations