To Have What It Takes: A Multi-Tiered Psychological Resource Model of First-Generation College Student Success

Zysberg et al. / Psychology / October 2021

First generation students typically show more difficulties adapting to academic studies and lower attainments than their counterparts hailing from academic families. While the literature offers insights into factors associated with these outcomes, there is little understanding of the processes underlying this phenomenon. This study presented and tested a model combining demographic, individual level and interpersonal level resources, all drawn from the field of positive psychology, to account for first generation and non-first generation students’ academic attainment in college. A sample of 199 students attending college in Germany, 38% of whom reported being first generation students, filled out a demographic questionnaire, including a report of the GPA, as well as measures of grit, self-efficacy, emotional intelligence and sense of coherence and social support. The results support a double mediation model that suggests that personal resources and social support mediate the association between background variables (gender), being a first-generation student and college GPA. The results are discussed in the context of positive psychology theories and our existing knowledge of the challenges first generation students encounter in academia.