Date of Award


Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Karen Huchting

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Stoddard

Third Advisor

Maureen Weatherall


Employing Museus’ (2014) Culturally Engaging Campus Environment framework, this mixed-method exploratory study sought to ascertain what prospective (proTSCC) and current transfer students from community colleges (TSCC) knew about nationally competitive awards and to identify factors that influenced their decision to apply. Beginning with phenomenological interviews of transfer students and alumni, their responses informed the development of an Access to Nationally Competitive Awards Scale, which was then disseminated to currently enrolled community college students who indicated intentions of transferring to a four-year institution.

Transfer students from community colleges (TSCC) make up approximately 19% of enrollment at four-year institutions, yet research has shown that TSCC frequently feel unsupported and lost during and after the transfer process (Schmertz, & Carney, 2013; Tobolowsky & Cox, 2012).

Nationally competitive awards (NCAs) fund a variety of opportunities, including study abroad, research, graduate school, and more (Cobane & Jennings, 2017). Currently, there is a dearth of research on NCAs, specifically in relation to access and awareness of these opportunities (Terri Heath et al., 1993). Furthermore, many NCAs require campus support, generally in the form of an institutional endorsement or nomination letter (National Association of Fellowship Advisors, n.d., Guidelines for Institutions section), which places access directly in the hands of institutions. Findings show that TSCC and proTSCC were mostly unaware of NCAs, yet they were eligible for at least one of the study exemplars and highly interested in learning more about these opportunities. Moreover, specific external, individual, and campus environment factors influenced their motivation to apply.