Making the College Transition in China-Rural First-Generation College Students and Their Parents

Michelle W.T CHENG, Yi XIE, Sing Kai LO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


College transition is a phase that every college student must face; however, not everyone experiences it smoothly. With the growing number of First-Generation College Students (FGCS) in rural China, this qualitative study examines how these students and their parents make their college transition. Guided by Schlossberg's Transition Theory, we analyzed students' write-ups that recorded mealtime conversations of 103 rural families in China on three themes: Self, Support and Strategies. It is found that most FGCS felt frustrated because of the lack of concrete strategies to cope with the college transition and choose their study major. While parents functioned as the important emotional support for FGCS to continue their study, these parents also experienced struggles themselves, including a lack of knowledge and experience about the higher education system, and being unprepared to separate from their children who are leaving for college. With this knowledge, recommendations are provided to better support rural FGCS and their parents to go through college transition, such as launching university orientation week, preparing reader-friendly infographic leaflets, and setting up more FGCS funding in China.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131–143
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Education Research
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The first author is the recipient of the Research Grants Council Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme (PDFS2021-8H01) funded by the University Grants Committee.


  • first-generation college students
  • parents
  • rural China
  • college transition
  • meal-time conversation


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