Date of Award

Spring 4-20-2023

Document Type

Dissertation (799 registration)

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Andrew Burklund


college admissions, test optional, narrative paradigm, admission appeal, student essay


Current college admission criteria in the United States rely primarily on academic criteria, high school grade point average (HSGPA) and standardized test scores, including the ACT and SAT. These standards were identified more than 80 years ago, and little has changed for much of that time (Beale, 2012; National Association for College Admission Counseling, 2008). One distinct change that took place in 2020 was a large migration of institutions dropping the requirement of a standardized test score from their admission requirements (Fairtest, 2021). This was done in part because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, which shut down many test sites (The Princeton Review, n.d.). These test-optional policy changes prompted an interest in the researcher to better understand what factors, other than HSGPA and test scores, could be used to predict college-level success as part of an admissions process. A review of existing literature identified that studies have been done to identify academic and non-academic factors that may correlate with college-level success. A notable gap in the reviewed literature identified that little had been done to explore how students’ narratives play a part in the admission process. Guided by Fisher’s (1989) narrative paradigm, this qualitative case study research explores how students choose to present their personal academic and non-academic factors in personal essays and how admission committees use those stories to offer an admission decision.



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