Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Patrick R Mullen

Committee Member

Natoya H Haskins

Committee Member

Tracy Cross


This study explored U.S. high school counselors' lived experiences of gatekeeping in their work with underrepresented high school students enrolled in International Baccalaureate Diploma Programs (IB DPs). A transcendental phenomenological research design was employed with a social constructivist theoretical framework for this study. After conducting a pilot study (N = 5), a purposive, criterion-based sampling method was used to target U.S. high school counselors in IB World Schools with DPs who work with underrepresented students. Twenty-three school counselors (N = 23) participated in the study through three means of data collection to triangulate data sources: semi-structured individual interviews (n = 14), focus groups (n = 9), and document reviews of school-based documents regarding student criteria for consideration for DPs. Data analyses revealed three themes that encompassed school counselors' experiences of gatekeeping in their work with underrepresented students in IB DPs: (a) Pulling and Pushing, (b) Biases about Belonging, and (c) Double Bind. Altogether, these themes provided a greater understanding of the phenomenon of gatekeeping within the context of IB DPs in school counselors' work with underrepresented students and families and related stakeholders. School counselors experienced various challenges associated with gatekeeping, including enhancing access to DPs for underrepresented students and families, navigating biases of student belonging and fit for DPs, and grappling with the double bind of advocacy for students while constrained by systemic barriers. Additional novel findings that expand the understanding of gatekeeping are discussed, along with implications for school counseling practice and training, limitations, and recommendations for future research.




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