Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jim Lampley

Committee Members

Louise Dickson, Bethany Flora, Hal Knight


The role of high school counselors includes providing equitable access to college and career opportunities for students (College Board, 2011). Attending college is viewed as a national priority that includes pre-college activities to promote postsecondary access (Savitz-Romer, 2012). High school counselors may have ambiguous roles that complicates their efforts (Engberg & Gilbert, 2014). Role confusion may arise when the high school counselors are asked to provide mental health services rather than professionally focus on college acceptance and completion for students.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perceptions of public high school counselors regarding their roles in developing a college-going culture. The participants were asked to share practices, policies, and resources specific to promoting a college-going culture.

This case study included in-depth interviews that shed light on successes and struggles encountered by the high school counselors. The criteria for participants included serving a minimum of three years as a high school counselor and possessing a Tennessee school counseling license. The interviews consisted of 15 semi-structured questions framed in response to the three research questions guiding this study.

The findings resulted in the emergence of four themes relative to answering the three research questions. The 11 participants expressed their roles as facilitators to students’ understanding, knowledge, and transition to access postsecondary education. The 11 participants provided insights and personal illustrations regarding the four themes. The findings revealed perceptions recognized from the participants’ experiences in the development of a college-going culture.

Participants reported an expanded view of the term college and reflected that the college-going culture may be structured to address the needs specific to the respective high school’s environment. The participants responded that family influences are key elements that determine students’ entry to postsecondary education.

Recommendations included practices that strengthened communication to students and parents and raising the rigor of academic coursework. The recommendations for practice included increasing the number of licensed school counselors with master’s degrees to reduce student caseloads. Currently, research from the American School Counseling Association (2017) suggests a student-to-counselor ratio of 250:1. Further research should explore barriers that prevent high school counselors from providing resources for the development of a college-going culture.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.