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“Just because I am first gen doesn't mean I’m not asking for help”: A thematic analysis of first-generation college students’ academic help-seeking behaviors.

Payne et al. / Journal of Diversity in Higher Education / December 2021


The literature investigating academic help-seeking suggests that first-generation college students are less likely to seek out help, less likely to attend office hours, and are less likely to use campus resources than continuing generation students. However, there is a lack in the literature investigating (a) what first-generation students do when they need academic help and (b) how first-generation students navigate and negotiate their resources. Using a strengths-based approach, six focus groups and one interview were conducted to answer the previous research questions. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. The findings demonstrate that first-generation students effectively engage in help-seeking strategies. These students actively use their networks to decide where to seek help, assess the quality of help, ascertain the risks involved in asking for help, and take corrective measures in their help-seeking strategies when necessary. These findings push back against the deficit narrative surrounding first-generation students and their academic help-seeking abilities by highlighting their strengths and success.

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