Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Jeannine Dingus-Eason

Second Supervisor

Shannon Cleverley-Thompson


Student-university fit leads to increased satisfaction with a student’s postsecondary institution and has a positive effect on college completion (Braxton, Vesper, & Hossler, 1995). As increasing numbers of deaf and hard-of-hearing students elect to attend college (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, Knokey, & Shaver, 2010), the relationship between college choice and completion points to a need to better understand how students make their college decisions. Using a qualitative phenomenological design, the present study examined factors that influence deaf and hard-of-hearing students’ college choice and explored how deaf identity influences selection of a deaf-serving institution (DSI). The theoretical framework for the study was deaf identity development theory, which postulates that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have varying degrees of awareness of and identification with Deaf culture and the Deaf community (Glickman, 1993). Study participants were deaf and hard-of-hearing freshman baccalaureate students at a DSI in the United States. Data was gathered using individual interviews and a document reflection activity. Analysis of the data revealed four themes that describe the study participants’ college choice process: Secondary School Influences, Preparation for Career and Life, Accommodation for and Acceptance of Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and Searching for Kindred. The findings point to the importance of educational environments that can appropriately serve the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The results also point to a fundamental role in higher education for DSIs, which serve both the educational and sociocultural identity needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

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