Department of Educational Administration


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DeVilbiss, S. E. (2014). The transition experience: Understanding the transition from high school to college for conditionally-admitted students using the lens of Schlossberg's transition theory (Doctoral dissertation).


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Education Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor James V. Griesen. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Samantha E. DeVilbiss


Higher education in the United States is both a public good, providing educated, critical-thinking, prepared, and productive citizens; as well as a private good, giving individuals opportunities to improve their financial situation and possibly their statuses in society. In order for these goods to be earned, students need to be retained by colleges and complete their degrees. However, many students, especially conditionally-admitted students, are not retained by colleges and universities. Further, there is a lack of qualitative research on the transitional experiences of conditionally-admitted students as well as a lack of studies utilizing Schlossberg’s transition theory to make sense of these students’ experiences. When colleges better understand the experiences, coping assets, and coping liabilities of their students, they will be better able to assist these students and retain them.

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenology was to understand the transition experience of traditional-age, first-time, full-time, conditionally-admitted students, attending a mid-size, four-year public university in the Southeastern region of the United States through the lens of Schlossberg’s transition theory. Using Schlossberg’s transition theory (Anderson, Goodman, & Schlossberg, 2012) as the theoretical framework and the phenomenological data collection and analysis process presented by Moustakas (1994), six themes characterized participants’ transition experiences: (a) increasing independence, (b) intensifying demands and difficulty, (c) learning what works and what doesn’t, (d) leaving loved ones behind but keeping some in one’s life, (e) uncovering support, and (f) finding one’s place. Additionally, textural descriptions and structural descriptions of each participant’s transition experience are presented along with a composite textural-structural description of the transition from high school to college for this group of students. These findings could be used to help colleges and universities to understand more fully the transition experiences of traditional age, first-time, full-time, conditionally-admitted students. They could also help to inform student affairs professionals, university administrators, and faculty as they make policy and programming decisions related to conditionally-admitted student populations.

Adviser: James V. Griesen