What to Expect When You’re Expected: Uncovering the Role of Cultural Capital in College Success
Five in-depth interviews were conducted with first-year college-age women from a liberal arts institution in the northeast United States. Study aims were to investigate the expectations that parents impose on a racially diverse group of first-year college women, and to learn how these women navigate the expectations of their parents regarding attendance and location of college and social/extra-curricular activities during and after their transition to college. Interview details were summarized in narrative descriptions. Narratives were analyzed for themes. Concept maps and memos were developed to organize themes. Results were that students generally accepted parental advice regardless of the presence or absence of parental cultural capital or the quality of the relationship with parents. Of the four rejections, one was associated with the presence of cultural capital and a positive parent-student relationship, two were associated with absence of cultural capital, and one was associated with a “rocky” parent-student relationship. The findings from this study point to the need for counseling directed towards first-year students about behaviors that can foster achievement and confidence in college, and the need for accessibility to skill toolkits that equip first-generation college students to thrive in environments with which their parents have had limited exposure.