Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Louise L. MacKay

Committee Members

Terrence A. Tollefson, James H. Lampley, Elizabeth Ralston


With over two thirds of high school graduates going on to pursue postsecondary options after high school and over one fourth at 4-year institutions and nearly half at 2-year schools never reaching their sophomore year, it is evident that the transition from high school to college is a broken one for many students. There has been a nationwide call to redefine the senior year of high school and rethink the transition from secondary to postsecondary education. Aligned with this plea, Walters State Community College began an initiative, the Freshman Experience program, to ease some of the strains associated with the transition process and, in 1993, began offering this course to high school seniors. The program was expanded and offered to seniors at 23 high schools in a rural 10-county service delivery area in East Tennessee. The purpose of this study was to determine whether students who completed a freshman experience course while still in high school engaged in more actions that positively impact retention than did those who had not had such a course prior to college enrollment. The study included 1,391 students, 550 who completed the course at the high school level and 841 who completed the course during their 1st semester of college enrollment.

Chi-square analysis of the data was conducted to investigate 6 variables. The major findings were that high school freshman experience completers (a) made application for college earlier, (b) earned significantly more advanced studies credits, (c) had significantly fewer absences during their 1st semester of college, (d) had significantly fewer course withdrawals, (e) had significantly fewer course failures, and (f) had significantly higher cumulative GPAs at the end of the 1st semester than did the postsecondary program completers.

Based on the findings of this study, the implementation of a freshman experience course or similar program serves to positively impact the transition of high school seniors to the postsecondary environment. These results confirm the need for high schools and postsecondary institutions to work together to provide students with a seamless transition in an effort to increase student retention and program completion.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.