The aim of this research is to shift the narrative regarding first-generation students with low parental socioeconomic status (SES) by scrutinizing their success stories. This in contrast to studies that particularly emphasize the limited chances of this group. By adopting a qualitative approach the following research question is answered: What strategies do children with a low parental SES background use to successfully participate in university? Results show that students with low parental SES form their motivation and ambition around the interplay between personal factors and the parental educational experience. By using self-regulated behaviours these students adjust their actions in the pursuit of academic success. Moreover, the different contexts students with low parental SES function in come with preferred social norms (Lubrano, 2004). By using shift strategies the distinct environments align more with each other. Lastly, by mobilizing cultural and social guides, students with low parental SES can navigate through university more smoothly. Fellow students are cultural guides and lead by example. First-generation students are less likely to mobilize the educational staff as cultural guides. The perceived distance between them is more considerable. Furthermore, parents are mobilized as social guides by providing emotional support. Previous literature failed to give considerable attention to parents’ emotional support. The university should focus on creating policies that enable the creation of durable bonds between students and the educational staff. The focus of future research should be targeted towards expanding on the strategies and linking them to the success stories of other groups within higher education.

, , , ,
Renske Keizer, Renske Verweij
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Lazaar, N. (2020, June 21). 'I want to do better': how students with low parental socioeconomic status succeed in university. Sociology. Retrieved from