Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

Document Type



Three populations of concern for professional social workers in higher educational settings include first-generation college students (FGCSs), students from low socio-economic (low-SES) backgrounds, and students with disabilities. As the national demand for degrees in higher education rises both socially and economically, the push for young adults’ postsecondary success becomes increasingly crucial. In college and university settings, a significant portion of students may be classified as FGCSs, low-SES, or may be registered with a disability. Examining these vulnerable populations within higher education settings, particularly regarding stress and anxiety symptomology, can help social workers recognize the social, developmental, and academic inhibitions that mental health factors have on these student populations and help promote programs within higher education settings that support these students’ social and academic success. By assessing stress and anxiety levels among FGCSs, students of low-SES, and students with disabilities, this study will build upon what is already known surrounding stress and anxiety within young adults, higher education students, and vulnerable student populations. Stress and anxiety levels were evaluated within three student populations including: students of FGCS status, low-SES students, and students with disabilities. Stress was assessed using the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, 1988), and anxiety was assessed using the Overall Anxiety Severity And Impairment Scale (Norman, Cissell, Means-Christensen, & Stein, 2006). Results showed that FGCSs, low-SES students, and students with disabilities had stress levels that are much higher than average and had anxiety levels that are just below the threshold for an anxiety diagnosis. These results have implications for future research, education policy, and social work practice.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Page, Timothy



Included in

Social Work Commons