Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Understanding the College Choice Process of Students Enrolled in an Early College High School

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Ellen Broido (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Christina Lunceford (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Susan Brown (Other)


The purpose of this case study was to understand the college choice process of students enrolled in an early college high school program. The program studied enrolled first-generation students beginning in 9th grade in courses that counted towards both high school and college credits. The goal of the program was to have students graduate from high school with an associate degree. I conducted individual interviews with 9 seniors enrolled in the program to better understand how they chose what they wanted to do after high school, as well as to understand in what ways participation in the program and attending college courses influenced their decisions. Additionally, I explored the ways that students saw their identity influencing their choices for ongoing education. After I completed and transcribed the interviews, I engaged with the data by reading it repeatedly to explore patterns and themes within student responses. I coded those themes and then also utilized documents that I analyzed to support or challenge what I had heard. I then took those codes and made connections to the research questions I asked to describe the findings of this study.

The findings of this study indicate the important role that personal relationships play in the college choice process, with participants sharing how relationships with faculty, staff, and peers influenced their success in the program as well as their belief in their ability to succeed in continued educational endeavors. Additionally, students shared the importance of taking college course on a college campus for their understanding of how college works, and for increasing their confidence in their ability to succeed in college. Placing this program on a college campus also enabled students to participate in extracurricular activities and utilize resources on campus. These findings indicate the important ways that communities and higher education institutions can work together to increase access to higher education for students who have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education. In addition, these findings indicate important factors to consider when designing these educational opportunities.