As an undergraduate student, you were probably asked incessantly what your major was and how you could use that degree in the “real world.” But how many times were you asked why you chose to go to your undergraduate institution and how you made that decision? Ainsley Lambert, a UC sociology student, focused on these questions for her master’s thesis, “Applying & Deciding: Students' Perceptions of the Role of Parents and Schools in the College Enrollment Process.”
Ainsley, who is now a doctoral student in sociology at UC, interviewed 17 seniors and two administrators at a Kentucky high school during her thesis work. Her goal was to discover students’ perceptions of the role parents and schools play in their college enrollment decisions. Ainsley found that, to a certain extent, social class played a role in the students’ perception of their parents’ involvement—both in their high school academics and their college-enrollment decisions. However, when she asked the students about their use of school resources, Ainsley was surprised by what she found.
“Regardless of their background, the students talked about the fact that they didn’t need the school’s resources. It was almost like they had made decisions early on about what their college experience would look like and they operated based on those,” Ainsley said. “Even though the resources were there, the students talked about the fact that they didn’t use them.”
This research and insight into high school students’ college decision-making process is the reason Ainsley was chosen to represent UC in the social sciences category of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Distinguished Thesis Award competition. The regional competition recognizes recent master’s graduates who have demonstrated exceptional scholarship in their theses. Gavin D Souza, currently a doctoral student in the mechanical engineering, was selected to represent UC in the physical sciences and engineering category.