Date of Conferral







Cheryl Keen


Low socioeconomic status students in the United States are facing declining completion rates for the attainment of 4-year degrees, which may have consequences for their economic well-being. The purpose of this study was to understand lower socioeconomic status students’ experiences regarding a sense of belonging, academic advising, and college preparedness while attending community college and transitioning to a 4-year university. The conceptual framework for this study was grounded in Strayhorn’s findings pertaining to a sense of belonging, Bandura’s social cognitive theory, Adelman’s momentum theory, and Schlossberg, Waters, and Goodman’s transition theory. This basic qualitative study used interviews with 11 community college students planning to transition to a 4-year university in the Southeastern United States. Interviews were analyzed using open coding to discern 3 emergent themes: the genesis of experiencing welcoming and belonging, institutional encouragement, and adaptation for collegiate life. The community college the students attended was perceived to successfully assist the self-selected students with enhancing their sense of belonging, adjusting approaches to academic advising, and extending activities that allowed the lesser prepared students, in particular, to have more positive experiences. Application of the findings by leaders in community colleges and 4-year universities may impact positive social change through the increase of 4-year degrees completed due to more successful transitions from a community college by low socioeconomic status students. These low socioeconomic status students’ economic futures may also benefit as a result of the findings.