Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New Orleans, LA, April 1-5, 2002).
This paper explores issues surrounding the interplay of college preparation, financial assistance, cultural norms, and transition to college for Appalachian first-generation college students from low-income rural families. The Robinson Scholars Program aims to significantly improve the college-going rate in 29 counties in eastern Kentucky. The program uses a highly competitive application process to identify scholarship recipients in the eighth grade, awards scholarships covering the full costs of 8-10 semesters in the University of Kentucky and associated community colleges, addresses the needs of student participants while they complete high school, and assists in the transition to college life. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews were conducted with approximately 50 Robinson scholars in a "rising junior" summer academic program and with 5 college freshmen receiving Robinson scholarships. Questions covered expectations and realities in making the transition to college, including issues related to homesickness and ties to family and community, new friendships and dealing with diversity, freedom and responsibility, and academic transitions. Implications for transition programs are discussed with regard to building bridges between the university and rural communities, providing social support to college students, dealing with students' unrealistic beliefs that they were well prepared for college, and promoting faculty-student connections. Broader program impacts on the region are also discussed.