Alternative Title

How social class influences college adjustment

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


First-generation college students-Psychology, First-generation college students-Social conditions, Class consciousness, Social classes, Social adjustment in adolescence, First-generaion college students, Class performativity, Education, Adjustment to college, Elite private college, Class, Cultural capital, Institutional attachment, Student adaptation to college questionnaire, Intersectionality


First-generation college students (FGCS), defined as students whose parents have not obtained a bachelor’s degree, is a new identity constructed primarily over the past decade. Utilizing the umbrella term of FGCS is problematic as it places a heavy concentration on parental education and lack of cultural capital, ignoring how current class experiences in the context of other identities, such as race and gender, shape adjustment to college. The purpose of this quantitative study was twofold: (a) to examine whether class consciousness affects first-generation students’ adjustment to elite, non-profit private undergraduate institutions, and (b) to examine how the intersectionality of race, class and gender moderate this relationship. The sample included 46 FGCS (68.3% female, 45% students of color, 48.3% low SES) who were completing their degrees at elite private colleges and universities. Findings include a positive correlation between the class consciousness scales for class performativity and access and opportunities with both institutional attachment and social adjustment and a hierarchical regression illustrating that class performativity is a better predictor of adjustment to college than prior access and opportunities to accrue dominant cultural capital. Unfortunately, a large enough sample size was not able to be collected to assess for the main effects of race, class, and gender. These findings challenge the importance institutions have placed on generational status for these students and suggest that further concentration should be placed on class identity development and current class experiences for FGCS at elite private undergraduate institutions.




iv, 77 pages : color illustration. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 50-55)

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Social Work Commons