Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Valerie Gunter, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Robert Heasley, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Melissa Swauger, Ph.D.


College choice is the three-stage process of aspiring, searching and choosing to attend college. There are many models pertaining to college choice, however, this study uses the Hossler and Gallagher Model--aspiration, search and choice. This qualitative study explored first-generation college students' perceptions about the influences affecting their college choice process. This study is guided by status attainment and social mobility models that show students want to earn a college degree to gain access to greater status and move up status groups (Blau & Duncan, 1978; Collins, 1994; King 2009). The study describes how habitus, social and cultural capital can be used to gain or lose status in American society (Banks and Esposito, 2009; Nora, 2004). The study found students aspired to have a better life yet faced many barriers that influenced their college choice. To overcome these barriers, the participants activated resources through relationships with other people.