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Facebook: A confidence boost for first-gen college students

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Posted June 7, 2013

Facebook connections can help first-generation college applicants believe in their abilities to both apply to school and excel once they’ve enrolled, according to a new study from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

“We are very excited by these findings, because they suggest that the kinds of interactions supported by Facebook and other social media can play a role in helping young people, especially those who are traditionally less likely to go to college, feel more confident about their ability to get into college and to succeed there,” said Nicole Ellison, associate professor at the U-M School of Information.

First-generation applicants might not come into contact on a daily basis with people who support their interest in college or who can answer questions about it, Ellison said.

“Our message to high school students is that even if they are disadvantaged in terms of financial resources or parental support, social media can help them access resources they may already have in their extended social networks,” said D. Yvette Wohn, a doctoral student at MSU and first author of the study.

The researchers surveyed more than 500 high school students in lower-income Muskegon County, Mich. They used statistical models to examine how various factors were correlated with the students’ confidence in their ability to apply to college and their expectations of success there. The factors they examined include demographics, family history of college attendance, parents’ community involvement, and both informational and emotional support by parents, friends and Facebook connections.

To gauge how well the students understood the college application process, the survey asked participants about social media use and to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with four statements such as: “I know how to apply for financial aid” and “I know what I need to include in a college application.” Of the sample, 12 percent had used social media to get information about how to apply to school.

Read more at: Phys.org

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