Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Katherine Lewis, PhD

Second Reader

Veronica Fruiht, PhD


There have been many studies around the struggles that first generation students face in their quest to access college. A college going culture can encourage students and families to seek the information they need to access higher education, but it is not enough (Martinez, Lewis, & Marquez, 2020). There is a lack of understanding about how counselors can address the need for more culturally aware practices and provide students with relevant information, strong networks and realistic goal setting (Crawley, Cheuk, Mansoor, Perez, & Park, 2019).

My goal was to seek to understand the experiences of my participants by conducting in-depth interviews. The research was conducted at a mostly white, affluent Catholic high school in Northern California where five current or previous counselors and four adult students were purposefully recruited to participate in an interview. This qualitative study utilized a phenomenological approach to understand the meaning of individual and group experiences of a social and human problem (Creswell, 2018).

Guiding questions were formed based upon the following research questions: (1) What does a successful transition from high school to college look like for first generation students at one college preparatory high school in Northern California? (2) How can culturally aware counseling practices improve outcomes for first generation students? (3) What preparation and training do counselors need to support first generation students’ access to higher education? Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Interviews and researcher memos were coded to locate themes. The findings show student and counselor perspectives on a college going culture and the transition to college and current counselor practices. Finally, this study arrived at some unexpected findings of student and counselor frustration due to the lack of clear understanding of the role of counselor.

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