Cultural Mismatch: First-generation College Students, Academic Performance, and Mental Health




Hartfield, Kimberly N.

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The present achievement gap amid first-generation college students (FGCS) and their peers continues to increase as FGCS experience unique barriers that reflect their socioeconomic and cultural background. Additionally, FGCS are traditionally from underrepresented groups and lack vital resources to promote their academic success before and after attending college. This combination of barriers creates a cultural mismatch for FGCS because they are unable to meet the middle- and upper-class norms present in institutions of higher education. This qualitative analysis examines the academic performance, mental health, help-seeking, and coping behavior of FGCS through the lens of cultural mismatch theory. To further understand their experience, 12 in-depth interviews were conducted with undergraduate FGCS at Texas State University. It was revealed that FGCS do experience several challenges that prevent them from fully meeting the demands of college, which ultimately creates a cultural mismatch for them. The participants' cultural mismatch directly affected their academic performance and mental health. Consequently, the FGCS learned to help-seek and cope with their struggles to remain afloat and resilient.



First-generation college students, Cultural mismatch theory, Academic performance, Mental health, Coping, Help-seeking


Hartfield, K. N. (2020). <i>Cultural mismatch: First-generation college students, academic performance, and mental health</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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