Culminating Project Title
Date of Award
Culminating Project Type
Higher Education Administration: Ed.D.
Educational Administration and Higher Education
School of Education
Dr. Rachel Friedensen
Dr. Jennifer Jones
Dr. Emeke Ikegwuonu
Dr. Karen Johnson
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Keywords and Subject Headings
first generation student, institutional fit, institutional fit for first generation students, policy and practice in higher education
The purpose of this interpretive phenomenological study is to better understand what the concept of institutional fit means to first-generation college students so that higher education institutions can be better informed about the services and programs necessary to help first-generation students be more successful in their higher education endeavors. The research question that guided this study was: What constitutes the essence of good institutional fit for first-generation students attending a small, midwestern institution of higher education? Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 first-generation students. There were four main themes or commonalities that resonated throughout the interviews as these 11 students deciphered what having good institutional fit meant to them: having the academic and financial resources they need to succeed; the university having their major program of study and faculty that were approachable; having an environment that was comfortable, safe, and inclusive; being on a campus and in a community where they felt they could engage, and finally, having a sense of belonging and/or a social support network. Having expectations that aligned well with the reality of transition to college life around the themes that were important to them was how they defined what institutional fit meant to them. Based on these findings, higher education needs to put aside the deficit approach to first-generation students and instead look at the strengths of these students and the successes they are having in the post-secondary environment and build on these successes to create more diverse, inclusive, and empowering learning environments for first-generation students.
Gierok, Andrea Leah, "“It’s Like You are Supposed to be There”: The Meaning of Institutional Fit for First-Generation Students and Implications for Policy and Practice in Higher Education" (2022). Culminating Projects in Higher Education Administration. 59.