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first-generation, higher education, college students, post-secondary


The experiences of first-generation college students (FGCS) can guide the development of effective practices for supporting and retaining these students. Open-ended interviews with 10 FGCS produced themes related to challenges and strategies for success. Applied thematic analysis identified barriers in school, home, and work settings, including a lack of knowledge of administrative processes, financial stress, instructor communication, and familial support. Strategies and needs of FGCS included developing social supports, time management skills, clear and explicit communication, and acknowledgment and reinforcement of academic successes. Findings align with previous research showing FGCS to be underprepared and under-supported in applying for, enrolling in, and paying for college. Implications and future research are discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in College Teaching on March 17, 2022, available at:

Watts, G., Garfield, T., Davis, M. T. (2022). Perceptions and experiences of first-generation college students. College Teaching (Online First).

Available for download on Sunday, September 17, 2023