The increasing number of first-generation Black women enrolling in college is accompanied by educational disparities that could potentially hinder their future career aspirations. The intersection of race, gender, and being a first-generation student poses numerous obstacles and challenges, rendering the journey towards college and career success more difficult in comparison to their peers. This study adapted a transcendental phenomenological approach using a humanistic stance to investigate the lived experiences of 12 first-time-in-college (FTIC) students who were first-generation Black women, aiming to give a voice to the individuality of each participant. Its purpose was to explore how these participants interpreted their experiences of academic success and career readiness. Participants completed two virtual, semi-structured interviews. The interview data were analyzed using Colaizzi's (1978) seven-step process, as described by Sanders (2003). Six themes emerged from the analysis: (a) family and cultural values provide motivation to work hard and be successful; (b) the pressure from family and marginalized identities leads to depression and anxiety; (c) extrinsic motivation influences academic and college success, and both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation guided career success beliefs and goals; (d) participants experienced professional limitations as well as shifts in career readiness; (e) intersecting identities have overlapping and cumulative disadvantages; and (f) the merging of identities and positive experiences contributed to increased feelings of pride, honor, and accomplishment. Overall, the analyses revealed that mastery experiences had a positive impact on participants' self-efficacy, subsequently influencing their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for success. However, academic performance pressures, racial and gender stereotypes and biases, a lack of guidance, and limited resources adversely impacted their college and career-related experiences, mental health, and perceptions of career success, which created uncertainty. This study benefits practitioners and administrators of higher education seeking to understand the experiences of this unique population and improve services and programs to further support efforts to make education more equitable for college success and beyond for all students.


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Graduation Date





Gill, Michele


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


Learning Sciences and Educational Research

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction


CFE0009900; DP0028433





Release Date

February 2027

Length of Campus-only Access

3 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)

Restricted to the UCF community until February 2027; it will then be open access.