Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Leslie Van Gelder


First-year community college students are often from underrepresented groups who are unaccustomed to voicing their needs or to being recognized for having more and varied needs than other groups. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain an understanding of the factors that may engender or prevent success through listening to what first-year community college students have to say. Research questions addressed what students identified as challenges and successes during their first year and how first person accounts can contribute to the information college personnel need to understand.

Human development theories and models of student persistence informed this study. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 18 to 24 year-old first-year community college students from a midatlantic state in the United States. Data were analyzed for themes related to challenges of time management, academic expectations, and balancing the demands of school, life, and work. Students who were interviewed remained attached to their families, worked full or part time, may have had less than optimal learning skills for college material, and did not ask for help regarding academic or financial matters. This study contributes to positive social change by adding qualitative findings to the understanding of the multiple and complicated challenges that traditionally-aged community college students face in persisting in postsecondary education. Using this information, college personnel can design programs to introduce incoming students to services that will promote success.