First-Generation College Students’ Stress: A Targeted Intervention
First-generation college students may experience a mismatch between their cultural backgrounds, which tend to emphasize interdependent cultural norms (i.e., group achievements, connection with others, and taking actions that foster fitting in) and universities, which tend to emphasize independent cultural norms (i.e. individual achievements, separation from others, and taking actions aimed at standing out). This cultural mismatch can create stress and lower sense of belonging for first-generation college students, which may prevent them from completing their degree. This dissertation investigates whether a targeted intervention that depicts stress as common and impermanent lowers their stress and increases their sense of belonging during the transition to college compared to first-generation college students who were given an intervention that depicts stress as something to ignore and compared to continuing-generation students who received both of these conditions. Surprisingly, it was the condition which encouraged students to ignore stress that reduced first-generation college student stress compared to multiple comparison groups both immediately following the intervention and one month later. Qualitative analysis revealed that the way in which first-generation college students related to stress was consistent with a cultural emphasis on hard independence (i.e. self-reliance and resilience).