Don’t Stop the Music: An Exploration of First-Generation College Students’ Use of Music During Pre-Pandemic and Pandemic Times

whittinghill et al. / Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice / December 2021

First-generation college student enrollment has increased significantly in recent years and a sizeable canon exists to help understand their journey to and through higher education, as well as subsequent persistence, retention and graduation rates. This research is the first to investigate how and why first-generation college students use music. Two studies compare usage patterns in pre- and pandemic settings. Study One (N=583) found that students listen to roughly four hours per day and that nearly 75% of students listen to music while studying. Moreover, first-generation students indicated that they listen to music more frequently and for more inward-focused coping reasons. Study Two (N=441) was an Internet survey (conducted during the pandemic) that supported and augmented many of Study One’s findings. While music plays an important role for all students, it is critically important to first-generation students. Key findings illuminate what genres students listen to and eleven reasons why students listen to music, which are highlighted by identifying and expressing emotions, relieving stress, relieving stress, and increasing creativity.