Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Ellen L. Usher


Students who feel a greater sense of belonging in college often experience more positive academic outcomes. Social-psychological interventions have been shown to improve students’ sense of belonging. However, few studies have examined the social cognitive mechanisms through which interventions work. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of two such mechanisms—delivery modality and students’ perceived similarity to peer models—on the efficacy of a narrative-based, social belonging intervention. First-year students (N = 1,329) from a public, land-grant university in the southeastern U.S. were randomly assigned to a social belonging intervention (i.e., a video- or written-based narrative from peers normalizing the adjustment to college) or a control group. The written belonging intervention reduced achievement gaps between first-generation and continuing-generation students. Both intervention conditions reduced achievement gaps between first-generation, racial minority students and their continuing-generation, White peers. Delivery modality predicted students’ perceived similarity, such that students in the written belonging condition felt more similar to peers in intervention materials. Perceived similarity to peer narrators in intervention material did not mediate the relationship between the intervention and student outcomes. Understanding intervention mechanisms could help educational researchers develop more effective interventions to support students’ transition to and performance in college.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)