Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version



Bitz, A.L. (2011). Does being rural matter:? The roles of rurality, social support, and social self-efficacy in first-year college student adjustment. PhD Dissertation. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirement For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychological Studies in Education (Counseling Psychology), Under the Supervision of Professor Michael J. Scheel. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Allison L. Bitz


One out of every three first-year college students will not return for a second year of college (Postsecondary Education Opportunity, 2010). Due to a variety of factors, minority students are at an even higher risk of dropping out of college. Rural youth, comprising approximately 22% of the nation’s total youth, form a significant minority population; yet the rural student experience in college has not yet been widely considered in research. The purpose of this quantitative study was to explore college adjustment and its predictors among first-year students, with an emphasis on the role of rurality in college adjustment. Social self-efficacy, social support, social investment at college, psychological help-seeking attitudes, and well-being were explored as potential predictors of adjustment. Participants were 240 first-year students at a large Midwestern university, who completed a questionnaire. Results indicated that rural and urban students did not report significant differences in the extent of their adjustment to college; yet, the predictors of adjustment were slightly different between groups (i.e., rural and urban students may have different paths to adjustment at college). Social support was an indirect and direct predictor of adjustment for rural students, but only operated as an indirect predictor of adjustment for urban students. Thus it may be that the social support perceived by rural students is somehow qualitatively different than support perceived by urban students, which may provide evidence for the idea of divergent rural/urban cultures. Bolstering this claim is the finding that rural students reported less positive help-seeking attitudes and higher senses of well-being than did urban students. Also of note is that well-being was found to mediate the relationship between social self-efficacy and adjustment, and between social support and adjustment, across groups. Based on the results of this study, various theoretical and practical applications, including potential interventions for first-year college students, are considered and discussed.

Advisor: Michael J. Scheel