Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Margaret Healy


Why do some college students enter, persist, and successfully move through the educational system, while others lose their direction and leave college prior to achieving their academic goals? As students graduate from high school and enter a post-secondary educational environment, some are prepared for the experiences they will encounter, while others struggle through their first semester of enrollment as they attempt to make meaning of their life situations and transitions. This qualitative research study used Schlossberg’s (1981) Transition Theory as well as Baxter Magolda’s (2001) concept of self-reflection as a framework for discovery and understanding in an attempt to gain insight into the lived experiences of freshman students as they transitioned through their first semester of college. Individual interviews were conducted at three separate timeframes in the fall semester with freshman students enrolled in aviation and undeclared focused sections of an introduction to university life course. The data that emerged from the interviews revealed that academic experiences, time management, personal independence, as well as relationships and involvement with others make a difference in how students navigate through and make meaning of their first semester of their freshman year in college.