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Common Reading 2022: Exploring the Links Between Parent–Student Conversations About College, Academic Self-Concepts, and Grades for First-Generation College Students by Rebecca Covarrubias, James Jones, Rosalind Johnson

Exploring the Links Between Parent–Student Conversations About College, Academic Self-Concepts, and Grades for First-Generation College Students — Rebecca Covarrubias, James Jones, Rosalind Johnson

“Exploring the Links Between Parent–Student Conversations About College, Academic Self-Concepts, and Grades for First-Generation College Students” details a study that looks at how the academic self-concepts of first-generation students influence their grades. The study compares the results of first-generation students with those of continuing-generation students and found that first-generation students had a lower self-concept. This, however, could be mitigated by having conversations with these students about college, which improved academic self-concept and grades.

Discussion Questions

1. What are the implications of this study for colleges, universities, and other schools?

2. Have there been times that your beliefs about your abilities have held you back? What can you do to overcome these beliefs?

Class Activity

Take a moment to reflect on your own views towards education and your ability to learn and record them (in writing, verbally, or by some other means). How might these beliefs inhibit or promote learning?

Introduction — Samantha Proffitt

According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, which was amended in 1998, a first-generation college student is “an individual both of whose parents did not complete a baccalaureate degree”. Yet, this formal definition does not fully account for the rich diversity of what being a first-generation college student really means. Being the first in your family to attend college is an achievement to be proud of, and it can come with additional challenges. First-generation students may sometimes feel confused about policies, terms, and concepts that are often unspoken and assumed, known as the hidden curriculum. Deciphering such hidden curricula can lead to even more confusion and self-doubt, making it even more important for first-generation students to have support navigating college. 

In this article, authors Rebecca Covarrubias, James Jones, and Rosalind Johnson describe their attempt to evaluate the importance of first-generation students having conversations with their parents/supporters about college, academic self-confidence, and grades. Without spoiling the outcome for you, I think it can be said that first-generation families are an important source of support for first-generation college students, and first-generation families may also feel a little confused when navigating this unfamiliar environment. 

At Susquehanna University, the first-generation identity is one to be proud of, joining a group of trailblazers at Susquehanna including faculty, staff, students, and alumni who were also the first in their family to go to college. We are excited to celebrate the different ways that first-generation students trailblaze at Susquehanna! If you think you meet the definition of being first-generation and would like to connect further, please visit SU’s First Generation webpage ( You can also determine your eligibility for TRIO Student Support Services at their webpage ( 

What I have learned as a first-generation college student | Lyric Swinton - TEDx Talks

In this video, Lyric Swinton shares her experiences as a first generation black woman, offering advice to those that feel like they might not belong where they are. 

About the Authors

Rebecca Covarrubias is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Faculty Director of the Student Success Equity Research Center at UC Santa Cruz. As a social and cultural psychologist, Dr. Covarrubias examines how institutional structures perpetuate educational inequality by privileging middle-class, White ways of being and thereby undermining outcomes for low-income, first-generation students of color. She examines how to reverse these effects through culturally informed approaches that draw attention to students' cultural strengths. 

James Jones is Trustees’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Africana Studies, and Director of the Center for the Study of Diversity at the University of Delaware. His research program has focused on racism, temporal orientation, and its influence on personality and the personality orientations of Black Americans that evolved from African origins and represent adaptations to the challenges of oppression, marginalization and discrimination in the United States. 

Rosalind Johnson is the Director of Enrollment, Equity, and Success at University of California, Berkly and the Assistant Dean of Student Success in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Delaware. 

Additional Resources

Susquehanna offers many resources for first-generation students, and you can check out the site by clicking here. It offers online, on-campus, and national resources for first generation students, stories from first generation faculty and staff, and more. It also provides information about National First-Generation College Celebration Day and Virtual First-Generation College Celebration Week, both of which are celebrated at Susquehanna!


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