Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Robert Burns

Second Advisor

Patricia Busk

Third Advisor

Emma H. Fuentes


The benefits of a college degree are clear. Those with a college education are more likely to participate effectively in the governance of the nation, contribute their time and resources to the community, depend less on government services, and engage in fewer crimes (Institute for Higher Education Policy, 1998). According to the literature, the parents’ level of education is a major indicator in determining whether a student completes a 4-year college degree (Perna & Titus, 2005). First-generation students are far less likely to gain admission and complete a degree from a 4-year university, in comparison to non-first-generation students (Tinto, 2006). Despite these findings, research has shown that some interventions can show small, but significant improvements for first-generation students toward gaining admission and successfully earning a bachelor’s degree. Further, the literature suggests that the school counselor is in a strategic position to fill this void by offering appropriate support for first-generation students at the school site level (Bemak, 2005).

Therefore, the purpose of this quasi-experimental study was to study the effects of a counseling program on first-generation high-school student’s aspirations, self-efficacy, perceived barriers, knowledge of the college application process, and course selection. The treatment included 12 lessons taught over a 4-week period covering important college-related topics, whereas the comparison group followed the traditional high-school curriculum.

A sample of 88 freshmen first-generation students were divided into four sections of a freshmen elective course, and a pretest-posttest research design was used to measure the effects of a high-school counseling program. The questionnaire instrument was administered to collect data from the participants in a two-group study where two classes received the treatment and the other two classes were the comparison group.

The results of the study indicated positive findings for both course selection and career aspirations, although most comparisons showed no differences between groups. The two positive effects do suggest that a dialogue among stakeholders, administration and staff on how to continue focusing on the needs of first-generation students. Their low rates of admission and earning bachelor’s degrees suggest a need to expand and develop a more comprehensive counseling program focused on first-generation students, and that school counselors should take a lead role in guiding the development of such a program.