Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Matthew Ezzell

Abstract

The first year of college is often a fresh start for students. For many, it is the first time away from home where students will have freedom to make their own decisions. During this year students gain new experiences, new knowledge, and a new understanding of themselves. However, it is commonly known that the transition into college is often accompanied by many challenges, including, homesickness, depression, inability to fit in, and financial instability. Often, students’ identities can influence the types of challenges they encounter throughout this transition. This study determines correlations between five social identities and challenges that first year students face. These identities are: gender, race/ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation and religious affiliation. In order to explore how these identities influence students’ transitions into college, and investigate students’ involvement in on-campus organizations that may aid in navigating these challenges, I used both the results of a general survey administered to current undergraduate students at a large, state school in the southeastern United States, which I call Happy Mood University, followed by a focus group session with eleven participants. This study demonstrates that inequalities that exist in the larger culture pertaining to gender, race/ethnicity, social class, and sexual orientation pervade into college culture, and thus influence the transition into college for many students. This project helps us understand barriers to integration into college life and offers avenues for change. By determining these correlations, professionals in higher education can address common challenges and provide more successful transitions for first year college students.

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