Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Amanda Blakewood Pascale

Second Advisor

Dr. Jenny Stuber

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Parkison

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Linda Skrla

Department Chair

Dr. Jennifer Kane

College Dean

Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey


College undermatch, the pattern of well-qualified students applying to and attending less selective colleges than their academic qualifications would permit, disproportionally affects low-SES students, a particular concern since attending a match college increases the likelihood that a student will graduate and reduces the amount of time to degree. The number of college-going individuals in one’s social network (including parents, peers, teachers, mentors, etc.) has a strong influence on whether a student attends a good academic match college, but little is known about the nature of the interactions between students and these college-going influencers. This instrumental case study sought to fill that gap by exploring how students perceived influencers of college choice, the nature of the interactions with and/or among these influencers, and, finally, how these influencers may have impacted the selectivity level of institution attended. Using participant-aided sociograms within one-on-one interviews, along with constant comparison analysis and classical content analysis, this study found parents and teachers to be the most influential on the college choice decision process of Pell-eligible students. A typology of advice-giving styles blended with three decision-making styles in that process. Participant communication patterns ranged from fully open to fully restricted and, at times, participants intentionally restricted communication about college choice to manage social exchanges. Addressing financial anxiety seemed to be the most salient factor to increase the selectivity of a Pell-eligible student’s enrollment choice, and financial counseling from non-family college graduates appeared to be the most connected to intentional changes of college selectivity level, though that influence occurred in multiple directions. The study’s findings suggest new ways to think about college financing, changes in teacher and counselor preparation programs and new directions in college choice and college undermatch research.