Date Awarded

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P. Barber

Committee Member

Eddie R. Cole

Committee Member

Monica Griffin


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the lived experiences of rural students at two selective four-year colleges. Using the framework of cultural, social, and academic capital, I explored aspects of 17 rural college students’ experiences that show how they are able to attain success at college in spite of their potentially disadvantaged backgrounds. Data were collected by interview; the participants were college students who mostly were seniors at the time of the interviews. Two major themes emerged from the data analysis: 1) the challenges students encountered in their rural high schools and 2) the challenges students encountered once they matriculated at college. Subthemes support the theory that rural students should be considered as part of the underserved student population, including microaggressions, code-switching, solo status, and stereotype threat. Other subthemes indicate that rural students are able to use knowledge gained from overcoming challenging situations they encountered in high school to also overcome challenges at college. The study indicates that resilient, resourceful, intelligent rural students can forge their own pathways to persistence and success in college. Keywords: college success, rural students, resilience, underserved students



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