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What defines "first-generation students" and leads to their success

11/29/2019

What are the characteristics of people who come from a nonacademic background but are themselves pursuing an academic career such as a degree and doctorate? What is special about this group, which is also called "first-generation students"? On November 26, 2019, sociologist Friederike Schlücker from the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories presented research results from a nationwide study at the TU Berlin and discussed—as part of the First Generation Day—what special support services at universities are possible and reasonable.

Friederike Schlücker gave the keynote speech at the event "First Gen@TU Berlin" and presented results of the student survey "Erfolgreich Studieren [Studying Successful]", which she had conducted online among 18,000 students at 18 German universities in 2016. In addition to external resources of the students (e.g., time for study, employment, family commitments, and support), the study focused on study behavior, study motivations, and convictions regarding academic competencies, as well as the social integration of students in the university environment. A key finding in the analysis of the characteristics of "first-generation students" was that they are significantly more frequently and to a greater extent employed while studying. However, this has no effect on the average time that "first gens" spend on their studies—here they hardly differ from other students.

Schlücker attributes the differences in grades between first-generation students and other students to two factors in particular: "An important factor for academic success is, of course, the grades already earned in school. But the assessments of one's own academic competencies also explain the differences between the student groups". Finally, Schlücker gave a brief insight into the study results that examine the transition from Bachelor's to Master's programs for first-generation students and examined the topic of dropout and generational status.

To program

In her doctoral thesis, Friederike Schlücker researches the academic success of students from different social backgrounds. She is particularly interested in grades as an indicator of academic success and the explanatory mechanisms behind grade differences of students from different educational backgrounds. Since the beginning of 2019, she has been a Research Assistant at the Center for Study Management at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories.