Date of Award


Degree Type



Education and Human Services

First Advisor

MacCluskie, Kathie

Subject Headings

Educational counseling, Counseling in secondary education, College attendance, College access, College retention, Guidance counselors, School counselors, Urban high schools


Higher education is not equally accessible for low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color, nor are these students equally prepared for post-secondary success. Although much has been gained from substantial research identifying factors that predict college access and retention for underrepresented students, the role of the high school counselor, which has been identified as critical for college planning among urban students, has been conspicuously absent. Based on the role of school counselors in providing influence on underrepresented students' postsecondary planning, this study examined the experiences of urban high school counselors. Two rounds of semi-structured interviews were conducted to gather qualitative data on counselors' perceptions of their ability to influence college access and retention of their students. Participants consisted of eleven urban high school counselors who have had experience college planning with low-income, first-generation, and students of color. The interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using HyperResearch software. The results of this study were examined within the context of social capital theory and its role in understanding how the transmission of capital is critical for educational attainment. Five major themes surfaced in relation to counselors' experiences: counselor under-preparedness, urban school settings, complex college planning process, accountability, and vocational commitment. The findings reveal that urban high school counselors believe they have the ability to influence college access and retention among their students however, informal and formal policies and a lack of preparation for their work constrain their ability to exert this influence. Despite these challenges, urban counselors remain committed to their work and thus continue to transmit social capital through their relationships with students. These findings suggest that policy efforts should be geared towards increasing urban high school counselors' capacity to

Included in

Education Commons