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Interpreting First-Generation Identities and Experiences: Exploring Student Meaning Making at a First-gen Forward Institution

Silver / Journal of First-generation Student Success / November 2023

Classroom of students on laptops

Efforts to support first-generation college students (FGCS) benefit from research on how these students make meaning of their identities and experiences. Drawing from in-depth interviews with 40 students, the present study explores student meaning making within a First-gen Forward Institution, recognized for its commitment to FGCS success. Findings reveal that participants interpreted their first-generation identities and experiences in a diverse range of ways. Specifically, students described being FGCS as a source of (1) pride and motivation, (2) constraints, (3) community, and (4) marginalization. Students linked these perceptions to their lived experiences in college. Implications for research and practice are explored.

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