The College Choice Process of Deaf Students at a Residential School for the Deaf

With an increasing number of students pursuing a postsecondary education, colleges are looking at how to attract and keep students in school as states have increased accountability on colleges ensuring students are successfully obtaining degrees. One of the keys in this process is understanding how college choice may affect students' ability to successfully graduate with degrees. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how Deaf students come to a decision on which college they attend. Many studies have examined the college choice phenomenon for first-generation students, Students of Color, students of low socioeconomic status, and undocumented students. These studies have investigated how parent education background, cost of attendance and financial aid, reputation, location, and majors offered affect the decision-making process. With only 17% of Deaf individuals obtaining a bachelor's degree compared to 32% for their hearing peers (Garberoglio, Cawthon, & Sales, 2017), there exists a clear need to see how this college choice process may affect their long-term success in college. Through individual interviews with high school students and staff, Deaf students' college choice process was examined through the combined framework of Critical Race Theory, intersectionality, and Community Cultural Wealth. Findings revealed that participants generally aspired to pursue higher education at the encouragement of their families, but were limited when creating their college choice sets. Participants were not knowledgeable of the various types of colleges to choose from and did not know the names of specific colleges that had large Deaf student populations. Campus visits had a significant impact on participants' final college choice, but completing applications became difficult for some due to challenges with writing. Participants and their parents also had little understanding of the finances involved with a college education. The significance of the findings can perhaps lead to different educational settings of Deaf students, particularly schools for the Deaf, to reevaluate how they support students as they navigate the college choice process to ensure they persist in college and graduate.