Understanding First-Year College Students’ Perception of Academic Rigor and Help-Seeking Behavior in College using BCSSE and NSSE
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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The first-year students join college with several expectations in their mind about their upcoming academic endeavors and their career. The first-year of college is the most crucial year of a students’ college career. This dissertation explores first-year students’ perceptions/ expectation of academic rigor and academic help-seeking in college as measured by Beginners College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). In three separate studies, we first observed the difference in first-year students’ expectation of college academic rigor before they joined college versus observed academic rigor after a year in college, second is the difference in first-year students’ expected academic help-seeking behavior before they joined college versus observed academic help-seeking after a year in college and third a proposed model showing the effect of several factors on expected academic rigor (ECrigor) and expected academic help-seeking (EAHS) along with the finding the effect of ECrigor on EAHS. The samples for the first two studies are all students who participated in both BCSSE and corresponding NSSE surveys in years 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 counting to N= 2096. The sample for the third study consists of first-year students who participated in BCSSE survey for the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 counting to N= 7540. The result of the first study shows that students observed less academic rigor in college than they had expected before joining college. Similarly, the result of the second study also showed the observed help-seeking behavior to be less than what they had expected before joining college. Results of the third study showed seven exogenous variables predicting expected college rigor and expected academic help-seeking. While high school rigor and advanced placement classes significantly predicted expected college rigor; self-efficacy, social behavior, relations with faculty, academic perseverance, and expected college rigor significantly predicted expected academic help-seeking. In summary, the results of the first two studies are in alignment with previous literatures that showed first-year students’ expectation of college does not match with their actual experience. But here the variance is inverted for the academic rigor construct compared to previous literatures. Usually, first-year students show difficulty in coping with college academic rigor, but in this study, students reported to have experienced less academic rigor. Students also reported less academic help-seeking which is understandable due to the fact that they perceived less academic difficulty. Lastly, the proposed model in study three is a useful way to use BCSSE data to look at the effect of various pre-college, personal, and in-college factors on expected academic rigor and expected academic help-seeking during the first-year of college.