First-Gen Lens: Assessing Mental Health of First-Generation Students across Their First Year at College Using Mobile Sensing

Wang et al. / Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies / July 2022

The transition from high school to college is a taxing time for young adults. New students arriving on campus navigate a myriad of challenges centered around adapting to new living situations, financial needs, academic pressures and social demands. First-year students need to gain new skills and strategies to cope with these new demands in order to make good decisions, ease their transition to independent living and ultimately succeed. In general, first-generation students are less prepared when they enter college in comparison to non-first-generation students. This presents additional challenges for first-generation students to overcome and be successful during their college years. The authors study first-year students through the lens of mobile phone sensing across their first year at college, including all academic terms and breaks. They collect longitudinal mobile sensing data for N=180 first-year college students, where 27 of the students are first-generation, representing 15% of the study cohort and representative of the number of first-generation students admitted each year at the study institution, Dartmouth College. They discuss risk factors, behavioral patterns and mental health of first-generation and non-first-generation students. The authors propose a deep learning model that accurately predicts the mental health of first-generation students by taking into account important distinguishing behavioral factors of first-generation students. This study, which uses the StudentLife app, offers data-informed insights that could be used to identify struggling students and provide new forms of phone-based interventions with the goal of keeping students on track.