Six Noncognitive Skills
1 Educational Commitment
Dedication to college and the value placed on earning a college degree
The ability to overcome challenging situations and stressful events
3 Social Comfort
Comfort in social situations and the ability to communicate with others
4 Campus Engagement
The desire to be involved in campus activities as well as an emotional attachment to the institution
5 Academic Engagement
The value placed on academics and attentiveness to coursework
6 Academic Self-Efficacy
Self-confidence in the ability to achieve academic success
There are several findings that stand out.
Noncognitive Factor Scores by First-Generation Status
First-generation students scored higher in academic engagement, educational commitment, and campus engagement
It’s a common preconception that first-generation students are less academically prepared to succeed than their peers. This mindset can lead to lowered expectations and assumptions about how first-generation students participate in their learning experiences. If, for instance, a first-generation student has difficulty in a course, they simply may not know how to find or use the institutional resources available to them, which can be perceived as a lack of participation. Faculty and staff can interpret this behavior to mean that first-generation students simply don’t value learning. Our data contradicts this notion, as first-generation students score in a higher percentile when assessing the importance of academic engagement and educational attainment.
First-generation students also placed higher than their peers in student engagement. When students are engaged in campus activities, it creates a sense of belonging and can connect classroom learning to outside-the-classroom experiences. And, successfully engaging students can have a positive impact on retention and completion efforts. It’s often assumed that first-generation students are less likely to participate in on-campus activities due to other commitments or non-academic needs. While this may be true, our data shows that first-generation students score in a higher percentile when assessing the importance of campus engagement. It’s a significant finding that should impact how institutions structure engagement activities to be inclusive of all students.
First-generation students scored lower in resiliency
Our data also indicates that first-generation students have lower percentile ranks than their peers when assessing resiliency. Due to the varied backgrounds of first-generation students—and the narrative around certain student populations overcoming odds to participate in higher education—it could be assumed that first-generation students would score higher in resiliency than their peers. While our data does not bear that out, we don’t assume this means first-generation learners are less resilient.
First-generation students are less likely to question if attending college was the right decision
Campus Labs recently administered five experimental questions to 53,000 students. We wanted to measure student perceptions of a college education and the importance of acquiring a degree—an area where there has been a gap in research comparing first-generation students to their non-first-generation peers. Of the students who responded, 32,000 provided information to determine their first-generation status, with 29 percent self-identifying as first-generation.