University of Cincinnati psychologist Shane Gibbons, who has researched this topic and counsels first-generation students, said these students are often raised by parents who have working class jobs — and in those work places, being assertive or individualistic can get you fired.
…Sociologist Annette Lareau followed dozens of children for a decade and found in her 2003 book, Unequal Childhoods, that more privileged children tend to be raised to reason with and question authority.
…When these first-generation college students begin to struggle, there’s something really pernicious that starts to happen. They already feel like they are at a disadvantage because of their background, and they start seeing themselves at the mercy of that expectation.
…”In psychological literature, they call it stereotype threat,” Gibbons, the University of Cincinnati psychologist, said. “When a prevailing stereotype is elicited, like being reminded of being undereducated, you’ll see a decrease in their scores. That effect is that part of their cognitive resources are turned toward fighting against that stereotype — and in expending those extra cognitive resources, there are less cognitive resources for studying, researching, and such.”
…When students were told in a mere one-hour session that their class backgrounds shape their college experiences — and that they need to cater their actions accordingly — it influenced their ability to get caught up to everyone else.
It doesn’t mean their experience wasn’t harder. After all, they tend to work more in college, have more family responsibilities, and have larger financial barriers. Rather, it just means someone needed to tell them about the biases of higher ed they will have to overcome.