Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Margaret Healy


This study uses qualitative methods to investigate the expectations and perceptions of freshmen at a regional university. Research suggests that stratification in American higher education has resulted in differing student populations at different types of institutions, and that regional universities and their students are underrepresented in the literature. The study examines the utility of Arnett's emerging adults model to describe how freshmen at a regional university perceive the role of college in their lives. Application of metaphor theory reveals that students view college as either a commodity to be exchanged for a desired future outcome, or as one of a sequence of steps leading to their future. Students in this study were also not aware of having formed an aspiration to attend college, which is inconsistent with the college choice literature.