Date of Award

Summer 6-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Rebecca Michel

Second Advisor

Amira Proweller

Third Advisor

Gayle Mindes


The number of first-generation college students has increased steadily over the years. These students faced many barriers to their academic success as they transitioned to college including limited support from family members. This qualitative study utilized a phenomenological approach to understand what role, if any, the support of parents and family helped first-generation students to persist in their academics during the first year of college. Six sophomore first-generation college students from a private Catholic institution in an urban setting in the Midwest were interviewed for the study along with six of their family members. The sophomore first-generation students reflected on their experiences during the first year of college. Participants discussed how they perceived and understood family support in their home life, the relationships between students and parents, and the way students interacted with their peers. Three findings emerged from the research: (1) the support provided by parents was instrumental in helping first-generation college students persist during their first year in school, (2) students and parents understood the college experience from different points of views, resulting in family tension and a “push and pull” dynamic that fostered an educational resilience among the students, (3) parents were more able to support students with financial resources and emotional encouragement and less able to address mental health issues. These findings showed the need for parental programming to support the educational experiences of first-generation college students and mechanisms to help parents become aware of the mental health challenges of students.