Graduation Year

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelli S. Burns

Keywords

belonging, Facebook, higher education, identity, social media, transition

Abstract

Starting college is an exciting and pivotal time for students. During this time, the student will be faced with challenges of his or her social identity and will need to develop or modify identities based on new social situations. Previous research shows that social media play a role in identity development, but there is little information regarding the extent. Are new college students using Facebook during their transition to communicate their new identity/social group to new peers? Are they using Facebook to maintain nostalgia for previous identities/social groups? This information will be valuable to higher education professionals working with these populations - particularly in determining the most effective methods to communicate support during their transition. Using a phenomenological, qualitative approach with individual interviews of new college students in their first semester of college, this study seeks to clarify the college transition and identify what ways new college students are using Facebook during their transition. Participants identified three key themes of their college transition: a fear of not fitting in, wanting a sense of belonging, and wanting to stay connected with high school friends. Overall, the students interviewed had a successful transition and utilized Facebook to assist in each of the three themes they identified. Specifically, though, new college students are using the Group feature of Facebook to create a community of peers. The use of Facebook and Groups leads to a more successful student with a quicker and stronger adjustment to college. Higher education administrators can take advantage of this data to enhance existing strategies to increase student success.

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