Forging Ahead: A Study of Socioeconomic Status as It Relates to the College Transitions of Emory University Undergraduate Students Open Access

Tuggle, Kaylee (2015)

Permanent URL:


Colleges are feeling the heat when it comes to diversifying the socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds of their student populations. However, low-SES students are less likely to attend college, and when they do attend, they are less likely to stay. Therefore it is worth exploring how students of different SES backgrounds transition into college. Specifically, I seek to build off previous research by studying the effects of cultural capital in the progression of students' social transitions, from their pre-college lives and the college application process, to students' overall transitions, to students' social transitions in particular. I begin by discussing a theoretical framework and supporting empirical research for the mechanisms through which cultural capital acts during each of these stages. I conducted 22 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with students at Emory University in their second, third, or fourth year of undergraduate study regarding these three stages in their college transition. I present major themes and patterns in students' reported transition experiences, particularly differences based on SES. My analysis adds to the literature on the role of SES in college, particularly with respect to adapting to college life in a particular social context.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction 1

II. Research Questions 5

III. Theoretical Framework and Empirical Research 6

SES Roots in Educational Lives 6

The College Transition: Realizing Cultural Mobility 9

SES and Social Bonds 13

IV. Hypotheses 16

V. Methods 17

Research Design 17

Site and Sample 17

Data Collection 19

Data Analysis 20

VI. Results 21

Pre-College Preparations: Layers of Connection 22

Transition and Integration: Then and Now 30

Navigating the College Friendship Network 36

VII. Discussion 40

VIII. References 45

IX. Appendices 49

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files