Dissertation

LOS GUERREROS ACADÉMICOS 30 Academically Invulnerable Mexican-American Students Who Forged Their Way into America’s Most Selective Universities

Undermatching refers to college ready students who select and enroll in colleges with selectivity levels significantly lower than their academic profile, resulting in attending a non-competitive college, a two-year college, or foregoing applying to college altogether. The current research trend examining the topic of Undermatching focuses on studies of low-income students in aggregate, ignoring the fastest growing racial/ethnic student demographic: Latinxs. Latinx students, as a subgroup, undermatch at the highest rate compared to all subgroups within the demographic of low-income, first generation students. While the majority of high-performing, low-income, Latinx students Undermatch, there is a small percentage of students from this demographic who avert undermatching and in fact properly match to selective colleges. This phenomenological study explored the behaviors, practices, and experiences, of 30 Mexican-American college sophomores (15 females and 15 males) whose demographic consisted of first-generation status, low-income, immigrant parents, English Learners, who earned admission to a highly selective college. This research study draws upon several theoretical frameworks to guide understanding of the ways in which this targeted demographic has the greatest potential to undermatch including Critical Race Theory, Cultural & Social Capital Theory, and Academic Invulnerability Theory. The study explores various environmental, psychological, and institutional factors, with emphasis on digital technology resources that impacted or influenced the college choice process of this target demographic. This study contributes to our understanding of the challenges, successful practices, and interventions that influenced and impacted participant’s pathway to a selective college. The purposeful sample was comprised of students who recently graduated from public high school in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Texas. The qualitative methodology consisted of individual, semi-structured interviews, and a Qualtrics Survey.

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