Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Teacher Education

Committee Member

Christopher Robbins, PhD

Committee Member

Tsu-Yin Wu, PhD

Committee Member

Joe Bishop, PhD

Committee Member

Sylvia Jones, PhD


The purpose of this study was to explore the factors that influence the college choice decisions of African American male first-generation college students. This study employed a strength-based approach, instead of the more traditional narrative centered around values, cultural norms, and deficits. This research study utilized a single-case study design and a qualitative research methodology. The study examined the college choice influences experienced by five African American males attending a mid-sized college in the Midwest to develop a more nuanced understanding of the strengths they exhibited that allow them to successfully navigate impoverished conditions at home, in the neighborhood, and in the school.

Data collected from one-on-one in-depth interviews, a brief survey, along with each participant’s high school and college academic transcripts were analyzed to highlight emerging themes associated with the research questions. In-depth interviews served as the primary source of data collection, and six questions guided the study including the following: (a) How do first-generation college students who are African American males develop and nurture their aspiration to enroll in college? (b) In what ways, do family members influence the college choice decision-making process of African American males who are first-generation college students? (c) How do peers influence the college choice decision-making process of African American males who are first-generation college students? (d) How do African American males who are first-generation experience the college search stage? (e) What factors influence the college enrollment decision of African American males? (f) How do African American males make meaning of their experience with the college choice decision-making process?

The findings suggest that African American males who enroll in college utilize various strengths to help navigate adverse conditions located in their home, neighborhood, and the school. Themes that emerged from the participants highlighted the significance of the impact that parents have on cultivating educational aspiration; navigating racialized stereotypes; surviving impoverished neighborhoods; and selecting college advisors, teachers, and mentoring programs to provide access to colleges and gain information about the college-going process.