In this study, students' patterns of postsecondary enrollment and academic performance confirmed previous research showing differential behaviors between first-generation students and their peers whose parents were college educated. Of the students who attended 4-year institutions, first-generation students were much more likely to attend public comprehensive institutions instead of research universities than those with at least one parent who had a bachelor's degree (41 percent versus 26 percent). More than one-quarter (27 percent) of first-generation students attended part time, and these students were much more likely to work full time compared to students whose parents had a college degree. By the end of the 199798 academic year, a larger proportion of first-generation students (25 percent) had chosen business/management as their major field of study, compared with their non-first-generation counterparts (17 percent).
In general, first-generation students had lower first-year GPAs than students whose parents had a college degree (2.6 versus 2.8), and were more likely to have taken at least one remedial course during their first year of postsecondary education (21 percent versus 10 percent). This difference persisted even after controlling for the rigor of students' high school coursework and college entrance examination scores. Among students who substantially exceeded the core New Basics in high school, first-generation students were more likely to have taken at least one remedial course during their first year of postsecondary education than students whose parents had a college degree (15 percent versus 6 percent). Moreover, among students whose college entrance examination scores were in the lowest quartile, 38 percent of first-generation students had taken at least one remedial course during their first year, compared with 29 percent of students whose parents had a college degree.
However, among students who took rigorous high school courses or scored in the top quartile on their college entrance examinations, first-generation students had first-year college GPAs and remedial coursetaking patterns that were not significantly different from their non-first-generation peers. For example, among students who took rigorous coursework in high school, 95 percent of first-generation students reported taking no remedial courses during their first year, compared to 96 percent of students whose parents completed some college and 97 percent of students whose parents had earned a bachelor's degree. In addition, first-generation students' average first-year GPA was 3.0, which was no different from the average GPA (3.1) of their non-first-generation counterparts with similar academic preparation.