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Facebook Helps Bolster First-Generation College Students

For high school students who are the first in their family to consider going to college, Facebook can provide connections and confidence to help navigate the process, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University found that the social-networking site helped first-generation college students get valuable information about applying and making the transition to college. Disadvantaged students might not interact daily with people who support their interest in college or who can answer questions about it, and Facebook can provide access to those resources, the authors suggest.

The conclusion was based on responses from a survey of about 500 high school students in Muskegon County, Mich. The study also looked at other factors, such as parental support, that could be linked to students' confidence in making it to college and discovered that social media played a positive role.

After controlling for other factors, first-generation students who used social media to get information about how to apply to school were nearly twice as confident about their understanding of the application process, compared with those who did not. However, this correlation was not evident for students whose parents had graduated from college.

In light of these findings, the Michigan researchers are encouraging high school counselors and administrators to find ways to use social media to help guide disadvantaged students through the application process. A new Facebook app designed to help students identify people in their networks who might be good sources of information and support about college is expected to be introduced this summer.

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