Literature Review Highlights

A few findings from the literature:


  • McMurray & Sorrells (2009) urge faculty to use illustrative examples to help FGCS envision themselves as graduates, to see new possibilities for themselves. They encourage faculty to tell stories about first generation students – about themselves, friends, relatives and past students – to make connections with current FGCS explicit.


  • FGCS often experience significant and unique stressors during throughout the process of navigating the foreign culture of the university. According to Ortega-Villalobos (2009) and Williams and Butler (2010), these stressors include:
    • Greater fear of failing than non-FGCS
    • Impostor syndrome: feeling different/deficient
    • More worries about financial aid
    • More sense of need to put more time into studying
    • Feelings of inner conflict, guilt, loss, trying to reconcile familial, cultural demands with new college culture


  • FGCS commonly report experiencing “survivor guilt” and/or “survivor conflict” (Piorkowski, 1983; Williams & Butler, 2010):
    • Questioning the appropriateness of college: struggling with being more successful than their parents and/or other family/community members, feeling and/or being alienated from families and communities
    • Feelings of guilt, ambivalence, anxiety, depression: Frequently subconscious, can be debilitating; can lead to self-sabotage, devaluation of accomplishments and ambitions


  • FGCS: Family and work commitments are greater for FGCS than for non-FGCS; time commitments reflect time available, not time needed


  • FGCS: Lack of understanding of what office hours are for, how the system works

“What am I supposed to do with ‘office hours’? I didn’t know that a teacher was available at a certain time for me to come and talk to if I had a problem. I didn’t know that as a freshman or a sophomore, even though it is right there on the damn syllabus. I didn’t know it.” (Collier & Morgan, 2008, p. 438)


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