Publication Details

O'Shea, S. (2015). Arriving, surviving, and succeeding: first-in-family women and their experiences of transitioning into the first year of university. Journal of College Student Development, 56 (5), 499-517.


This article outlines a qualitative narrative inquiry study conducted within Australia that focused on a group of female students commencing university, all of whom were the first in their family to pursue higher education. During 1 year of academic study, 17 women participated in periodic interviews as each moved through the year. By following the students, the study reveals a very different perspective on the student experience, one that is often missing in policy documents and university discourse, which can place these students within a deficit discourse. Instead, by approaching this topic from a strengths perspective, the intent was to highlight how those in this group persist and engage throughout the year. The semi structured interviews built upon each other, and themes were explored related to how the participants managed their university studies in relation to other competing demands in their lives, as well as how the students reflected upon the transition to university life and the repercussions that this decision provoked. The participants' reflections reveal an initial disjuncture with the university environment, but as the year proceeded, the narratives highlight changes in personal perceptions from that of exclusion to inclusion.



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