Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Stephanie Bondi, PhD.

Date of this Version



Sloup, K.S.L. (2021). Honorable firsts: The experience of first-generation students in honors programs (Master's thesis). University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Stephanie Bondi. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2021

Copyright Kali S. Lenhoff Sloup 2021


This constructivist, qualitative research study explored the experiences of first-generation students in honors programs and colleges. This study seeks to fill a gap in the literature regarding students who are both first-generation students and enrolled in honors programs. First-generation students are estimated to be 56% of the college student population (RTI International, 2019), but only 28.6% of the honors student population (National Collegiate Honors Council’s Admissions, Retention, and Completion Survey as cited by Mead, 2018). Two, semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant. The participants in this study included one current student and four recent alumni who were first-generation students enrolled in honors during their undergraduate experience at a public, four-year research institution. Inductive and deductive coding process were used to analyze the data. Six key findings were identified from the data in this study: financial incentives, competitive advantage, checkbox process, residence hall community, relationships, and completing the program.­ The findings from this study contribute to the small body of knowledge focused on the intersection of first-generation students who are also honors students. From this study, implications are shared that address the importance of validating relationships with honors staff and peers and the need for a review of honors programming to create a culturally responsive environment.

Advisor: Stephanie Bondi