Admission of First Generation to College Pre-Licensure Master's Entry and Graduate Nursing Students


Laura M. Wagner, Alece Alderson, and Joanne Spetz

February 6, 2020

A growing body of literature is examining the relationships between socio-demographic factors influencing recruitment and retention of students in higher education. The purpose of this study was to explore the characteristics of first generation to college (First-Gen) nursing applicants including socio-demographic variables compared to applicants whose parents received a higher education degree. We also aimed to explore whether acceptance or rejection into the program varied based on an applicant's First-Gen identification.

A total of 3469 applications were analyzed over a six-year admission period from 2012 to 2017 across three programs: Accelerated Registered Nursing; Graduate (Master's degree), and PhD. Data analysis included descriptive and inferential statistics (e.g., chi-square, t-tests) aimed at describing the sample of First-Gen applicants as well as comparing First-Gen applicants to those whose parents received at least a university degree.

Approximately 30% of applicants identified as First-Gen. First-Gen applicants were significantly more likely to be a student of color, older, a Veteran, immigrant or international student. PhD first-gen applicants were significantly more likely to be rejected than those who whose parents had higher education degrees.

This study describes a growing population of nursing student applicant requiring further research and engagement on what supports are most needed. The long-term goal of boosting the diversity of our workforce is to increase recruitment, improve retention, increase graduation rates, and ultimately increase access to and quality of care to the patients we serve.