Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


The Experiences of High-Achieving, Undergraduate Students Who Departed from Bowling Green State University in the First Year: A Case Study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Maureen Wilson

Second Advisor

Earley Mark

Third Advisor

Coomes Michael (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lunceford Christina (Committee Member)


The purpose of this case study was to understand the organizational, psychological, sociological, and financial experiences of high-achieving students who departed within their first year of study from Bowling Green State University. Although the literature suggests high-achieving students have special educational needs that must be recognized, supported, and nurtured in primary and secondary education, little is known about the experiences of high-achieving students in college. The goal of this qualitative research study was to gain a deeper understanding and explanation of student behavior within this student-institution context.

Participants in this study were selected from the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 cohorts, based upon the following criterion: the student intended to graduate from BGSU, departed with the dean 's list designation, was enrolled in at least 12 credits, lived on campus at least one semester, and was 18 years or older. Ten participants were interviewed at their new college or university or via Skype, and represented a variety of experiences personally and academically.

Four broad themes emerged from the data: (1) High-achieving students did not establish a sense of belonging psychosocially in the residence halls, which negatively affected social integration; (2) participants, almost unanimously, felt "underchallenged " or "bored " by the curriculum in the general education courses; (3) participants needed more guidance to navigate course of study and career ambiguity; (4) participants demonstrated a deeper desire for intellectually stimulating conversations and meaningful engagement in the classroom and in campus life experiences.

A number of implications for student and academic affairs are presented as a result of the findings. First, campus administrators must work with student and academic affairs to create a campus culture that nurtures a sense of belonging for high-achieving students. Second, an emphasis on faculty development to promote more active learning environments, more challenging curriculum, and the continual emphasis on learning communities and student-faculty relationships is recommended. Third, an emphasis on the first-year experience that creates clearer pathways for undecided students in terms of course of study and career is also recommended.