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The Transition Experiences of High-Achieving, Low-Income Undergraduates in an Elite College Environment

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This hermeneutic phenomenological study describes the lived experiences of high-achieving, low-income undergraduates and their transition into a college environment historically reserved for wealthy students. The results of this study indicate that these students are flourishing in full need-based financial aid programs as a result of their own resilience and intellectual capital, despite being underprepared for the academic curriculum of an elite college. Participants' experiences suggest that this population of undergraduates faces unique challenges and requires specific support services to equalize their opportunities vis-à-vis higher income peers, specifically related to overcoming less rigorous academic preparation, unlearning self-imposed socioeconomic stigma, and managing financial pressures. From these findings, implications for colleges and universities and full need-based financial aid programs are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is a semiannual refereed journal providing current research on the first college year and other significant student transitions. The primary purpose of the Journal is to disseminate empirical research findings on student transition issues that inform practice in all sectors of postsecondary education, such as explorations into the academic, personal, and social experiences (including outcomes related to success, learning, and development) of students at a range of transition points throughout the college years; transition issues unique to specific populations (e.g., non-traditional, traditional, historically underrepresented students, transfer students, commuters, part-time students); and explorations of faculty development, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations connected to college transitions.
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