Social connection strategies of academically underprepared college students
Ray, Lizbeth Cara Skeat
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This qualitative study examined the social connections of academically underprepared college students, defined as those who test into one or more developmental education courses in college. Fifteen undergraduate students in the first two years of their college educations provided data to answer three research questions: 1. How do academically underprepared college students describe the formation and content of their social interactions during their time in college? 2. How do academically underprepared college students describe the effect of their social interactions on their college experiences? 3. How do academically underprepared college students utilize their social connections to meet their academic, social, emotional or other needs? Data were analyzed using grounded theory methods, a rigorous way of coding data that results in the development of a data-based theory. Initial, focused, axial, and theoretical coding generated the results of this study, a theory of how friendships form and are utilized among academically underprepared college students. There were three main aspects of this theory. First, friendships were classified into six levels of closeness, each level having its own unique characteristics. Additionally, friendships proceeded through three stages: the beginning stage, the building stage, and the maintenance stage. Finally, friendships helped students manage both their social and academic transitions to college.
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