Press Room

Social Support Plays Significant Role In First-Generation College Students’ Transition To Campus

January 4, 2018
New Research
Education, Relationships
(Washington, DC)—The transition from high school to college can be difficult for any student, but it’s particularly challenging for first-generation college students (FCGS). In fact, this group of students (one-third of all U.S. college entrants) is more likely to drop out, less likely to seek support sources, and more likely to work while attending school. Thus, it’s no surprise that social support, whether informational, emotional, appraisal (useful feedback for comparison), or instrumental (tangible or material aid) plays a significant role in helping FGCS prepare for and adjust to campus life.
In a recently published article in the National Communication Association (NCA) journal Communication Education, scholars Angela N. Gist-Mackey, Marissa L. Wiley, and Joseph Erba examine the types of socially supportive communication FGCS seek out and receive in their first semester at a four-year university, based on interviews with 28 students from a predominantly white university in the Midwest. Because FGCS are less likely to receive guidance about applying to and attending college from their parents or guardians, they seek out other sources, such as high school counselors and teachers, friends, and university media and communication channels. According to the authors, “FGCS’ perseverance and resilience not only got them to college, but also manifested after starting.”
Once on campus, students experience high levels of uncertainty and anxiety. The authors recommend that FGCS join student organizations and activities, and seek social support from professors, university staff, residence hall assistants, counselors, and other students to help them navigate everything from registering for classes and finding their way around campus, to obtaining financial aid and finding affinity groups. They also suggest that universities proactively reach out to FCGS to provide various avenues of support.
One positive benefit of FGCS receiving strong social support during their transition to college is that they then want to pay it forward – by continuing to educate their parents and family on the advantages of attending university, by sharing their own experiences with other future FGCS students, and by intending to contribute to their family’s upward mobility to create a better future for them all. As one student said, “I think just getting this education and getting the degree will definitely help me, but more than that, help my family.”  
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Read the full article on Taylor & Francis Online here
To arrange an interview with the study authors, contact Jenna Sauber at 202-534-1104 or
About the National Communication Association

The National Communication Association (NCA) advances Communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry. NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. NCA supports inclusiveness and diversity among our faculties, within our membership, in the workplace, and in the classroom; NCA supports and promotes policies that fairly encourage this diversity and inclusion.

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