Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Barbara Strobert, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Margaret Brady-Amoon, Ph.D.


Latino first-generation college-goers, college-going culture, school counselors, habitus, culturally responsive counseling, post-secondary enrollment


Throughout history, the United States has symbolized a place of opportunity, viewed as a place where achieving a better life is possible. This viewpoint still holds true for Latino immigrants, who currently account for more than half of the country’s population growth since 2000. Latino families and students specifically see higher education as a means by which to attain the proverbial “better life.” However, prior research dedicated to Latino students in the college-going process cites obstacles to enrollment in American colleges and universities. Inadequate academic preparation, language barriers, limited social capital, and restricted access to financial aid are among the challenges associated with lower attendance of Latino students in higher education, especially for those students who are first in the family to attend college.

Educational professionals and school counselors emerge as influential in the college- going process for all students. School culture is also prominent in promoting a college-going ethos amongst students. Therefore, as Latino students continue to emerge in larger numbers throughout the nation’s schools, a further look into improving their rates of college enrollment warrant exploration. Rather than perpetuating former deficit models that highlight what impedes college enrollment for Latino students who are first in the family to attend college, current research seeks to identify aspects of school culture and culturally responsive counseling that support college-going for students in this population. This study explored the school culture and counseling programs/services offered to students at a selective school of choice in an urban environment where college enrollment rates of Latino students far exceeded data generally associated this group’s entry into colleges/universities.

Using a qualitative, case study approach, this research employed semi-structured interviews with four school counselors, with ten students who were Latino, and first in the family to attend college. Questions focused on the degree to which the school and its counseling staff engaged in culturally responsive pedagogy. Furthermore, in considering school culture, the concept of “habitus” emerged as central to the positive college-going trends reported for this specialized high school. Conclusions from this research point to the importance of “habitus” as the cornerstone to improving college-going for all students and specifically for those who are Latino and first in the family to attend college.