The economic decline of the Great Recession has increased the need for a university degree, which can enhance individuals’ prospects of obtaining employment in a competitive, globalized market. Research in the social sciences has consistently demonstrated that students with low socioeconomic status (SES) have fewer opportunities to succeed in university contexts compared to students with high SES. The present article reviews the psychological barriers faced by low-SES students in higher education compared to high-SES students. Accordingly, we first review the psychological barriers faced by low-SES students in university contexts (in terms of emotional experiences, identity management, self-perception, and motivation).

The researchers highlight the role that university contexts play in producing and reproducing these psychological barriers, as well as the performance gap observed between low- and high-SES students. They also present three examples of psychological interventions that can potentially increase both the academic achievement and the quality of low-SES students’ experience and thus may be considered as methods for change.