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Polished : college, class, and the burdens of social mobility

ISBN: 9780226833040
Format: Paperback
Publisher: *University Of Chicago Press
Origin: US
Release Date: May, 2024

Book Details

An illuminating look at the emotional costs of mobility faced by first-generation and low-income college students. While college initiates a major transition in all students’ lives, low-income and first-generation students attending elite schools are often entering entirely new worlds. Amid the financial and academic challenges of adapting to college, their emotional lives, too, undergo a transformation. Surrounded by peers from different classes and cultural backgrounds, they are faced with an impossible choice: turn away from their former lives to blend in or stay true to themselves and remain on the outside. An ethnography that draws on in-depth interviews with one hundred and fifty first-generation and low-income students across eighteen elite institutions, Polished uncovers the hidden consequences of the promise of social mobility in today’s educational landscape. Sociologist Melissa Osborne reveals how the very support designed to propel first-generation students forward can unexpectedly reshape their identities, often putting them at odds with their peers and families. Without direct institutional support, this emotional journey can lead to alienation, mental health challenges, poor academic outcomes, and difficult choices between upward mobility or maintaining authenticity and community. Whether you’re an educator, advocate, or student, Polished provides a powerful perspective on the uncharted challenges of social mobility and personal identity during college.