Factors Influencing Optimism for Degree Attainment in Latino First-Generation College Students

  • Laura F. Romo University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Diana Magana University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Gabriela Gutierrez-Serrano University of California, Santa Barbara
Keywords: Latino undergraduates, first-generation, persistence, optimism, Hispanic Serving Institution, HSIs


Latino first-generation college students face a unique set of challenges that are not part of the college experience of their non-first-generation counterparts. Nonetheless, many Latinos remain optimistic about overcoming barriers that might impede their educational pursuits. The present study was aimed at exploring factors that contribute to Latino students’ positive expectations for degree attainment. Utilizing data from a large online survey administered at a four-year Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), we found that competency beliefs and persistent determination to overcome challenges significantly influences students’ optimism. In addition, strong connections with institutional agents (largely, faculty and student affairs staff) emerged as significant contributing factors. Students who reported having close relationships with their parents also reported a greater degree of optimism about postsecondary success. Implications for programs and services to improve the college experiences of Latino first-generation student, enhance optimism, and increase retention are discussed.