Transition to College for Low-Income First-Generation College Students

Tara Ann Gemmel, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to explore sophomore low-income first-generation college students’ (FGCS) transition to college by examining their lived experiences at a public, four-year, commuter institution. FGCS are often an overlooked marginalized group on college campuses. Parental education level appears to serve as a disadvantage to them compared to their peers who have a parent with a college degree. In addition, when FGCS are from low-income socioeconomic backgrounds, they face even more challenges. Despite being disadvantaged, many low-income FGCS do well in their transition to college and more non-deficit research is needed to understand better the full scope of their experiences. Thus, the focus of this study was to identify the transition experiences of a group of low-income FGCS at the start of their second year of college, after recently completing their first year. Participants in this study were 12 sophomore low-income FGCS. Using a phenomenological methodology, the researcher developed themes based on the students’ common experiences to gain a batter understanding of their transition to college at a single institution. Results of the study revealed nine overarching themes related to the participants’ experience in their transition to college including (a) maturity and responsibility, (b) minimize distractions, (c) motivated and determined, (d) school resources, (e) power of peers, (f) family support, (g) involvement (h) time management, and (i) surround yourself with the right people. Findings from this study indicated that sophomore low-income first-generation college students who complete their first year of college do so by utilizing various methods of support and by devising strategies to overcome obstacles.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Gemmel, Tara Ann, "Transition to College for Low-Income First-Generation College Students" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10281536.