The Real-Time Social and Academic Adaptations of First-Generation College Students During the Global Pandemic

Grim et al. / American Behavioral Scientist / August 2022

In March 2020, during the beginning of the COVID-19 global pandemic in the US, institutions of higher education abruptly pivoted to a completely online experience that resulted in massive changes in experiences for faculty, staff, and students. As with other facets of society, the global pandemic has disproportionately impacted those who are already underserved including first-generation college students (FGCS). While we now have more understanding about some outcomes of FGCS from the pandemic, less is known about how FGCS navigated the first weeks of the abrupt transition. This study captures in real time how 54 FGCS from one institution navigated the evolving pandemic and university experience. Themes revealed how students managed an evolving information deluge, cared for their peers, managed online coursework, and dealt with increased financial and familial pressures. This study concludes with implications for preparing for future abrupt disruptions to higher education.