Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs


Terry Cook

Publication Date



Applicants for college entrance may be deemed able to succeed based on a variety of screening factors: standardized test scores such as ACT or SAT, high school grade point average or completion of college preparatory coursework. Rio Grande University (pseudonym) offered provisional admission to applicants who met all entrance requirements with the exception of completion of high school courses. Providing an opportunity to complete missed courses and to receive support through The Student Success Program, there was an expectation of transition to regular admission. The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze the experiences of a cohort of provisionally admitted students related to their persistence and completion of the baccalaureate degree or to their stopout or departure from enrollment. Using a naturalistic inquiry design, document review, in-depth interviewing and survey methods were used to collect data from three groups of provisional participants with differing perspectives on the problem of the study. Theoretical sampling (Glaser, 1999) methods were used for data analysis resulting in findings with implications for secondary and higher education leaders. Provisional students, a large percentage of who were first-generation in students in higher education experienced nontraditional secondary schooling that accounted for their missing coursework. Students with traditional high school also faced significant personal and family challenges that affected timely completion of required high school courses. Set in the context of underpreparation, students who were at-risk for college completion also had an external locus of control, believing outcomes were due to events beyond their control and experienced difficulty in successfully transitioning to the academic and social challenges of the higher education environment. This study underscores the importance of the students' development of persistence behaviors prior to college entrance.


Universities and colleges--Admission, Underprepared college students, College students--Attitudes

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Advisor

Wood, Carolyn

Second Advisor

Woodrum, Arlie

First Committee Member (Chair)

De Leon, Jozi

Second Committee Member

Montoya, Bernadette

Third Committee Member

Noll, Bruce