First-generation students are estimated to comprise nearly 25 percent of the current national undergraduate college population. First-generation student status is defined as students for whom neither parent attended college (Choy, 2001; Chen & Carroll, 2005; Engle, 2007; Nunez & Cuccaro-Alamin, 1998; Pryor et al., 2006; Ross et al., 2012) or neither parent graduated from college (Mehta, Newbold, & O'Rourke, 2011; Pike & Kuh, 2005). It may take these students longer to earn the bachelor's degree, they may be less prepared for the academic and social environment of college, many could drop out before graduation, and the majority will enroll only on a part-time basis because they work more hours per week than they attend class (Choy, 2001; Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, & Pascarella, 1996). And yet, many persist to earn the bachelor's degree, and some will persevere to enroll in a master's degree program. The purpose of this phenomenological research study was to explore the influences of academic self-efficacy and motivational factors that adult first-generation master's students enrolled in a public, preeminent research university ascribe to their academic persistence. The first-generation master's students' experience was discovered through one-on-one interviews and journaling exercises, revealing the essence of these adult learners who pursue graduate work and the elements that informed their decision to return to school. The current study also explored whether any of the first-generation undergraduate student experiences influenced how the participants experienced graduate school. Implications of this research will provide insight for college and university faculty, staff, and administrators who work with first-generation master's students. The significance of this study will contribute to an understudied area of research about a distinct student population: the adult first-generation student at the master's level.
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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
College of Community Innovation and Education
Educational Leadership and Higher Education
Educational Leadership; Higher Education Track
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Withington, Andrea, "Aspirational Ethos: An Exploration of Self-Efficacy and Motivation of First-Generation Students Who Pursue the Master's Degree" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 314.