NAVIGATING THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM
THE SOCIALIZATION EXPERIENCES OF FIRST-GENERATION MASTER’S-LEVEL GRADUATE STUDENTS: NAVIGATING THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM,
UPWARD MOBILITY, AND PRIDE AND GUILT
Recent literature and think tank organizations alike point to the notion that the master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree. Additionally, universities are experiencing an increase in first-generation college student enrollment as well as graduate student enrollment. This growth in both student populations raises the question: What happens when first-generation students are on their quest for graduate study? Combining the Weidman-Twale-Stein framework for graduate student socialization with Community Cultural Wealth as a conceptual framework, this qualitative study explored the socialization experiences of first-generation master’s-level graduate students, the supports and challenges they experience in their quest for graduate study, and how these experiences influence their sense of belonging and perception of graduate school.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with 24 master’s-level graduate students at Golden State University (pseudonym), a public four-year institution within the California State University system. Participants expressed both formal and informal socialization experiences occurring amongst their families and friends, within their places of employment, and between classmates and faculty members. Participants experienced interactions and received messages that influenced their sense of belonging and their perceptions of graduate school. Participants cited a variety of personal factors that helped them persist in their programs as well as sentiments of doubt, fear, guilt, and imposter syndrome.
Policy recommendations include institutions establishing where the graduate education is situated within the university, creating mechanisms to balance enrollment, and funding graduate education. Practice-related recommendations include suggestions to increase diversity and representation and improve orientation and culminating activity experiences. Additional research is needed to further close the gap about experiences specific to master’s-level graduate students.