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Finding My Way: Perceptions of Institutional Support and Belonging in Low-Income, First-Generation, First-Year College Students

Means & Pyne, 2017 / Journal of College Student Development / September 2017

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This qualitative case study explores students' perceptions of institutional support and sense of belonging within the college environment. Following 10 low-income, first-generation college students out of a college access program and through their first year of college, we examined institutional support structures reported to increase students' sense of academic and social belonging, including comprehensive scholarship programs, social identity-based centers and student organizations, residence hall communities, faculty relationships, academic support services, and high-impact educational experiences. In spite of the positive and stabilizing potential of these support structures, several simultaneously undermined students' sense of belonging.