Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. Higher Education


Educational Services and Leadership


College of Education


Walpole, MaryBeth

Committee Member 1

Tinnin, Andrew

Committee Member 2

McCombs, Tyrone


collegiate student-athletes, first-generation students, higher education


College athletes; First-generation college students


Higher Education


The purpose of this phenomenological study is to explore the experiences of first-generation student-athletes (FGSA) on a college campus. One major goal of this study is to offer new discussion for first-generation student-athletes to increase awareness on this population in current literature. While there is research on first-generation students and collegiate student-athletes as separate identities, this specific population, combining both identities, has not been at the forefront of scholarly research (Oratagus & Merson, 2015). By expanding the current literature with evidence-based research, student affairs professionals and college athletic administrators can better enhance the experiences of first-generation student-athletes on their campuses.

Findings from this study suggest that first-generation student-athletes are thriving, unique educational pioneers, who are motivated by their families and their own athletic and academic ambitions. Findings also challenge previous notions that first-generation students have lower educational aspirations. Attending college as a first-generation student while participating on a varsity team positively affects all aspects of the college experience. While these students arrive onto campus unaware of the expectations academically and athletically, they also adapt quicker and have more of a seamless transition because of athletics. Recommendations for further practices and research are also suggested.