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PEDAR: Executive Summary First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education: A Look at Their College Transcripts
First-Generation Students in Postsecondary Education: A Brief Portrait
Remedial Coursetaking
Undergraduate Major
Credits Earned
Coursetaking in Selected Areas
Postsecondary Performance
Factors Related to Degree Completion and Persistence
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Undergraduate Major

Choosing an undergraduate major appeared to pose a greater challenge for first-generation students than for other students. One-in-three first-generation students (33 percent) had not identified a major after entering postsecondary education, compared with 13 percent of students whose parents had a bachelor’s or advanced degree (figure B).

Among those with a major, business and social sciences were the two most popular undergraduate fields for all three groups of students: between 7 and 14 percent of students majored in these two fields. Despite this similar pattern, the differences in the choice of majors were evident among the three comparison groups. For example, first-generation students were more likely to choose a major in a vocational or technical field, whereas their counterparts whose parents had a bachelor’s or advanced degree were more likely to choose a major in science, mathematics, engineering and architecture, humanities, arts, or social sciences. Many factors are associated with a student’s choice of major. Weak academic preparation, for example, may deter first-generation students from choosing certain “high-skill” fields, such as mathematics and science. Perceived low-earning potential may also deter them from entering such fields as humanities, arts, and social sciences (Montmarquette, Cannings, and Mahseredjian 2002).

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education