Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Hispanic American college students-Psychology, Hispanic American college students-Family relationships, Hispanic American teenagers-Decision-making, First-generation college students-Psychology, College, Bound, Factors, Influence, First, Generation, Student, Process, Qualitative


This qualitative study explores the biopsychosocial factors that influence first-generation Latino students in their decision to attend college, including individuals' demographic characteristics, and how first generation Latino college students cope with changes in their environment when away from home. The fact that only one in ten Latino adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a college degree (Brindis, Driscoll, Biggs, and Valderrama, 2002) is a staggering number that highlights part of the need for this study. Twelve first generation Latino College students residing in California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and New York participated in this research study. They answered open-ended interview questions focusing on the following topics: 1) Biopsychosocial factors influencing first generation Latino students to attend college; 2) Challenges that first-generation Latino students encounter; 3) What helps students to cope more effectively during their first year of college enrollment; and 4) what helps Latino first-generation students to succeed in college. The findings showed that the greatest challenges in being a first generation college student were lack of support from immediate family; lack of information about college; and being of low socioeconomic status. All participants in this study described success as achieving their educational goals in life; helping future first generation college bound students; and being able to maintain financial stability for their own families. The findings also showed that many participants found their transition to the college environment difficult in terms of their individual autonomy and identity as a first generation Latino college student. Many affirmed the importance of having role models and mentors in their communities during their early years in high school to help them visualize college as a real option after attaining a high school diploma. These findings suggest the importance of cultural awareness and the need for improved and accessible resources in communities where Latinos reside. Findings also suggest the need for social workers, educators, and other service providers to become knowledgeable of the strengths and challenge that first generation Latino College students may face in the process of attending college for the first time. Participants also identified resources that are necessary for higher education to implement in order to help first generation Latino students succeed in college.




iii, 64 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 50-55)