Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Donna C. Graham


First-generation college student (FGCS) can be defined as students from families in which their parents did not earn a four-year degree. An increasing number of FGCS enroll in college each year. However, first-generation African American and Latinx students are faced with challenges attending a four-year institution of higher learning. For this reason, pre-college programs like the Upward Bound program provide support, resources, and guidance to help prepare FGCS for college. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to explore how African American and Latinx FGCS in the Upward Bound program describe their college experiences and factors contributing to their academic goals. The theoretical framework for this study was Lent, Brown, and Hackett’s social cognitive career theory. Purposeful sampling was used to select 10 FGCS who participated in an Upward Bound program. Virtual one-on-one interviews were used to gather data for open and axial coding data analysis. Themes were derived from an analysis of individual interviews with 10 participants. After analyzing all factors, themes were labeled and defined. Themes were vital factors for enrolling into a four-year college. Findings revealed that mental health, a sense of belonging, building connections with faculty, and academic programming supported the drive of first-generation students. Capturing participants’ perspectives will help Upward Bound directors, secondary school counselors, and college admissions advisors better understand how providing structure and resources positively affects FGCS and their transition from high school to college.