Parental Influence on Graduate School Aspirations among First Generation and Non-First Generation College Students Attending Highly Selective Institutions
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First generation students face significant challenges with respect to college enrollment (Choy, 2001) and remain disproportionately underrepresented in certain segments of American higher education particularly in graduate education (Callan, 2001). Among those individuals who shape the educational plans of first-generation students are their parents (Hossler & Stage, 1999; McDonough, 1997). Researchers operationalize parental influence as the transmission of various forms of capital (Bourdieu, 1977).
The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a relationship between various forms of capital parents transmit to their children and graduate school aspirations of first generation and non-first generation students attending highly selective institutions. Three dimensions of capital were explored in this study: (a) human, (b) cultural, and (c) social. Additionally, this study was designed to determine whether there are differences in the degree of these forms of capital among groups classified by race, gender and institution type.
Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF) (Massey et. al, 2003) which included a sample of Asian, Black, Hispanic and Caucasian first year, first generation and non-first generation students from 28 highly selective colleges and universities were used for this study.
The findings suggest that human, cultural, and social capital transmitted to students by parents are marginally related to graduate school aspirations regardless of generation status. Also, graduate school aspirations differ by race/ethnicity and gender, but do not differ substantively between first generation and non-first generation students in this sample. Finally, the type of institution students attend does not relate to their graduate school aspirations.
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