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Transition Experiences of First-Generation Students Enrolled in a High School to Community College Partnership Program Open Access

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Abstract of the DissertationTransition Experiences of First-Generation StudentsEnrolled in a High School to Community College Partnership ProgramBy Wendy Hockersmith A significant issue facing high schools is preparing students for their transition to college. High school students who are the first in their family to attend college have more difficulties preparing for this transition. Studies have explored the transition experiences of first-generation college-going students participating in partnership programs, showing that not all program components strengthen the transition experience for this population (Domina & Ruzek, 2012; Jordan, 2006; Watt et al., 2008). Since participation in these programs may contribute to a successful transition experience, it is crucial to expand our understanding of how participation helps these students overcome the numerous challenges in the transition process (Barnett et al., 2012; Choy, 2001). This qualitative study involving interviews of 20 first-generation students examined how a district-level high school to community college readiness partnership program facilitated a successful transition from high school to community college for first-generation college-going students. The study drew on a conceptual framework involving cultural capital (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) beyond the “deficit” model (Ovink & Veazey, 2011), social capital (Coleman, 1988), and ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1977).Participants described both partnership program components and individualized attention through human resource relationships as being pivotal contributors to their positive transition experience. Although participants stated that the partnership program addressed many barriers to support their successful transition to community college, their transition experience remained challenging at times. Participants shared that their parents’ inexperience with the college process gave them a feeling of “being on their own” during the transition from high school to community college. As a whole, however, participants stated that they had a successful high school to community college transition because the partnership program gave them the background knowledge they needed. In addition, participants shared that with guidance from the partnership program, they felt more prepared than they would have had they not participated in the partnership program. Based on participants’ transition experiences, this study offers a deeper understanding of the aspects of the partnership program that support a successful transition experience, with implications for existing and future programs, as well as policy.

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