Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies


College of Education

First Advisor

Matthew Irvin


First-generation students, who represent more than 40% of entering college freshmen, have lower academic achievement and struggle to persist compared to their continuing-generation peers. Although previous studies have repeatedly shown a deficit model for first-generation students, there is still a lack of clear understanding about the heterogeneity that exists among these college students. While some do struggle to persist, others show marked resilience. Thus, drawing on Self-Determination Theory and Expectancy-Value Theory, this short-term longitudinal study examined whether perceived competence, perceived choice, and positive school value could moderate the risk of being a first-generation college student. A latent profile analysis on the motivational constructs revealed a threeclass solution with one high competence class and two low competence and value classes. When considering if the latent profiles moderate the risk of being firstgeneration, no significant relationship with generation status was found when controlling for high school GPA, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic hardship. Thus, this dissertation study specifically illustrates the resilience that can protect college students at risk of low academic achievement. The significance, limitations, and implications of this study for future research and practice on how at-risk college students can beat the odds on academic achievement are discussed.