Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


A Top Fashion Program and the Traditional College Experience: A Narrative Study of Fashion Merchandising Students’ College Choice

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Maureen Wilson (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Christina Lunceford (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Conor McLaughlin (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Geusz (Other)


Deciding which college to attend can be a complex process for students. The purpose of this narrative study was to hear the stories of fashion merchandising students and their college choice process when choosing to attend a large, suburban or rural, Midwest, public institution instead of a specialized college of fashion. Rational choice theory is the theoretical framework for this study.

I interviewed 16 current college students enrolled in fashion merchandising at two public universities in the Midwest. The participants knew they wanted to study fashion merchandising before enrolling in college. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect data for this qualitative study. By using a creative nonfiction style, I restoried the data to present a narrative that describes the college choice process for the participants.

Participants shared the most significant factors in their college choice process: availability of academic options, campus environment, cost, information from influential people, opportunity to study in New York or abroad, proximity to home, rankings, and a desire for a traditional college experience. I concluded the paper by answering the research questions, discussing significant findings, presenting implications for practice, and providing implications for future research.