First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education: A Look at Their College Transcripts

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U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics


Recent research has generated a large body of knowledge about students who are the first members of their families to attend college, referred as “first-generation students”. The results show that such students are at a distinct disadvantage in gaining access to postsecondary education. Even those who overcome the barriers and do enroll have difficulty remaining enrolled and attaining a degree. What has not been well studied, however, are the course-taking experiences of first-generation students after entering college. What do first-generation students study in college? How well do they do in their coursework? Is their coursework different from that of their peers whose parents went to college? This report explores these questions by using data from the Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) of the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) to examine the majors and course-taking patterns of first-generation students and to compare their postsecondary experiences and outcomes with those of students whose parents went to college.



First-generation college students, Education, Higher--United States, Universities and colleges--United States, educational attainment