Factors Influencing Academic Success in First Generation College Students
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Previous studies suggest that the college experience may be uniquely challenging for first generation college students (FGs); that is, students for whom neither parent has completed a college degree. While previous work has shown lower levels of academic success for first generation college students compared to their continuing generation peers (CGs), others have suggested that various risk and resiliency factors may significantly influence these outcomes. The current study focused on the influences of one risk factor (family dysfunction) and one resiliency factor (perceived academic control) on self-reported grade point average (GPA) in first generation and continuing generation college students. Ethnicity (Hispanic versus Non-Hispanic) was included in the statistical models used in this study. Results indicated that a complex four-way interaction of generational status (FG versus CG), ethnicity, perceived academic control and family dysfunction was the best predictor of GPA in this sample of students. Further analyses suggested that these effects were at least partly due to family dysfunction acting as a moderator of the relationship between perceived academic control and GPA in the Hispanic CG subgroup. The CG subgroup was small (n = 33), however, the graph of simple slopes for this group suggested that increasing levels of perceived academic control were associated with higher predicted GPA values, but only for students who had low or medium levels of family dysfunction. Increasing levels of perceived academic control did not appear to improve predicted GPA values for participants with a high level of family dysfunction. These complex results suggest that the “one size fits all” approach of programs designed to boost academic performance in college students could be improved by taking into consideration the diversity of backgrounds and experiences that exists within first generation and continuing generation groups.