An examination of hope, self-esteem and positive and negative experiences among first year psychology students

Carolyn Semmler, T Nahum, Yvonne Clark

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This study aimed to investigate the relationship between hope, self-esteem and positive and negative experiences among first year university students studying psychology at the University of Adelaide. Our research uses a mixed-methods approach, by combining responses to standardised measures of hope and self-esteem with open ended responses. The outcomes of the project included; 1) A better understanding of the challenges facing international and domestic students who have chosen to study psychology at the University of Adelaide, 2) identification of the key experiences that lead to positive and negative outcomes in this student cohort, and 3) strategies to inform university and school policy and practice in the care of international students and students from rural areas studying psychology at the University of Adelaide. A key aspect of effective adaptation to any stressful life event is the ability to maintain a sense of self worth throughout the process. In our study we focussed on the self esteem of first year students, comparing those who come from geographically and culturally diverse places to students associated with the more ‘traditional’ backgrounds. There is a substantial body of work looking at how academic self-esteem affects students’ ability to achieve grades. However, fewer studies have attempted to look at the link between factors thought to be fundamental to broader aspects of psychological well-being and experiences at university among students who are from geographically and culturally diverse places. The focus of our research moves beyond the traditional focus on the academic achievement, to overall levels of self-esteem and hope. Our research also focuses on students from rural backgrounds and those who are the first in their family to attend university. The results of our research suggest that students from non-traditional backgrounds (both international and domestic) face very specific barriers to achieving the best from their time at university and self-esteem may act as a buffer against more negative psychological outcomes such as depression. Some of the negative experiences reported by the students in our sample have been reported by international students attending other universities in Australia and include loneliness, isolation, racism, confusion regarding course expectations and adjustment difficulties. In sum, our research raises issues of duty of care for students’ psychological health and the need for better understanding support structures that allow students to achieve positive outcomes during the first year of their education. We discuss the implications of our research in the context of the increasing diversity of students attending university.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2010
Externally publishedYes
EventEducation Research Group Adelaide 2010: The Changing Face of Education - Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 24 Sept 201025 Sept 2010


ConferenceEducation Research Group Adelaide 2010
Abbreviated titleERGA

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