Traumatic Stress and Risk Versus Resilience in First Generation College Students

First generation students tend to have lower rates of college completion. Why is this the case? Well before diving in any further, first generation students vary in definition, but for research purposes, can be defined as students whose parents did not graduate from a 4-year college. One factor that might contribute to these lower rates of persistence involves traumatic and stressful experiences. The study I’m conducting this summer will therefore investigate 1) the rates of exposure to trauma in FG students and 2) the effects of the trauma on resilience of FG students.

This summer, I will recruit incoming first year first-generation college students who will enter W&M in the fall (class of 2023). Prior to beginning college, participants will complete a baseline survey in which questions prompt responses about demographic characteristics and family background, ethnic and socioeconomic identity, social support, help-seeking beliefs and behaviors, future plans and beliefs about the likelihood of completing college. Specifically, students will complete a section of questions about exposure to violence during their upbringing and childhood environment, as well as another series of questions that assess exposure to violence at home and in the community. Following the baseline, follow up surveys will be sent during the students’ freshman year to track any changes in success, feelings of preparedness, and traumatic experiences. After the first year, participants will be sent a follow up survey once a year until graduation. Participants are compensated through funding for this project. I will be analyzing data at the end of the summer with SPSS to identify trends of trauma across different social groups and the academic consequences. I look forward to seeing all of your work!