Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Kimberly Case

Second Advisor

Drew Moser

Third Advisor

Kelly Yordy


Existing literature affirms an increase of first-generation college students (FGCS) attending a four-year institution and their lack of academic preparation to graduate on time. The purpose of this study was to better understand the academic challenges FGCS experience in a four-year institution and how those challenges contribute to their overall academic experience. To capture the unique experiences and academic challenges of FGCS, the study engaged in a qualitative narrative research design. The study involved one-on-one interviews with FGCS attending a four-year institution. Written biographies and a number of common themes that contributed to understanding the academic challenges of FGCS are acknowledged. The results of the study revealed factors that contribute to academic challenges in FGCS’ lives. The increase of schoolwork causes FGCS to struggle with time-management. In addition, the lack of financial resources causes stress among FGCS and distracts them from working effectively on their schoolwork. Family support in the lives of FGCS is crucial for their emotional stability. The absence of family in college leads FGCS to lean on their friends as their new source of emotional support during college. Several FGCS feel academically prepared to be in college. Despite the challenges FGCS face in college, many of them have a strong sense of determination to graduate. Ultimately, acknowledging FGCS’ academic struggles and understanding their experiences in college will help four-year institutions attend to the needs of these students and set them up for academic success.