An Update on the First- Generation College Students Study: A Change of Direction

For the past two months, Professor Raposa and I have been focusing on participant recruitment. Before school ended in May, we finalized our initial baseline survey questionnaires and created our recruitment posters. Just in case you were wondering, this is our poster! Have you seen them around Williamsburg?


For the three weeks after returning on the campus , I traveled over 200 miles distributing recruitment flyers around Toano, Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Newport News. Phoebe, a wonderful lab-mate,  joined me on some of the road trips. With her navigation expertise, I didn’t get lost nor did Google maps yell at me for taking a wrong exit. After countless door-to-door advertisements at the libraries, community centers, strip malls, and anywhere teenagers may hang out, we learned that small businesses are probably your best bet if you ever have to flyer for anything. Big chain stores were not as receptive to advertisements due to their own housekeeping standards, and many local public centers – such as libraries and community centers – had inconsistent requirements even if they are in the same county: some required a city logo on the flyer, some only allowed non-profit organizations to advertise, some didn’t have any standards, some just didn’t allow any advertisement, and you get the idea. This past week, I targeted online platforms – such as craiglist, this facebook page, facebook community groups, and mass emailed religious leaders and private schools around the four cities. Meanwhile, Professor Raposa reached out to local public school networks to distribute the information to parents through their listserv and worked with WMSURE (W&M Scholars Undergraduate Research Experience) to set up a potential partnership in the fall.

Unfortunately, despite our efforts forms.wm.edu continued to greet us with “0 responses” and slowly panic crept up on me.

What if we have zero interest even by the end of the summer? What should we do? Due to the nature of the study, we planned on obtaining baseline surveys before these students began college and conducting follow-up surveys towards the end of their fall semester. Fingers-crossed, hopefully we will get some participants by the end of the summer, but Professor Raposa proposed a plan B just in case.

At least for this honors thesis, we could recruit participants from the W&M class of 2019, if, God forbid, we actually don’t get any participants from the Williamsburg area this summer. Instead of obtaining the baseline in the summer, we would conduct the surveys during first few weeks of school when students have not acculturated and assimilated to W&M culture and peers yet. We would also broaden the population of interest by studying underrepresented college students, instead of focusing on just first-generation college students. The definition of underrepresented college students will include students who are first-generation college students, low-income, or ethnic minority. Students will be recruited via SONA system and intro classes, as well as flyering. They will be compensated through psych research participation credits or in cash. For the next few days, I will be proposing an IRB/PHSC with these modifications and continue to pester online communities, continue searching for participants. Afterwards, I will continue to work on my introduction of my thesis and wait patiently for local participants.

I feel more at ease with this new plan, but since we will continue the community study and include local participants in my honors thesis, we would greatly appreciate it if you could help spreading the word if you know any local high school graduates!





  1. Mary Grutta says:

    I am so excited about your project! The posters look great and I really hope participants start flooding in soon. Please let me know if I can do anything to help when I get back to campus!

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