University Presentation Showcase: Undergraduate Poster Gallery


How Do First-Gen Students Succeed? Grit!


An undergraduate student survey was conducted at the end of the Spring 2022 semester. Anonymous links were shared with all undergraduate students at EKU through email invitations. Of the 1047 students who completed a survey, 417 participants identified as First-Gen (39.8%). For this study First-Gen is defined as a student for whom neither parent has graduated with a four-year college degree.

The focus of this survey was on ‘grit’ among undergraduate First-Gen students. Grit is a measure of resilience created by A. Duckworth to identify characteristics of people who are able to persist to achieve goals despite facing challenges. First-gen students face extra challenges in attending and graduating from college for a variety of reasons. Some of these challenges include not having a family member who can mentor them through the college process, having limited connections for academic mentorship and difficulties with financial support for college expenses.

First-Gen students in this study had lower GPA (3.32 vs. 3.50) but higher grit scores (3.21 vs.3.19) than Continuing-Gen students. Grit and resilience are skills we can learn and use to increase capability for persistence through challenges like completing a college degree. The more we know about their strengths and areas that need support, the more recruitment and retention strategies can be targeted to help increase their odds of graduating. Understanding what a barrier to academic success might be allows us to develop methods for addressing and removing those barriers.