Date of Graduation

Winter 12-6-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organization and Leadership (O&L)


School of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Alejandro Covarrubias

Second Advisor

Jessie Blundell


Over one million international students attend American institutions of higher education each year. For many of these students, community colleges are an accessible and increasingly popular enrollment option because they offer small class sizes, intensive English language courses, and affordable tuition costs. Many international students enrolled in community college seek to transfer to a four-year university and complete a Bachelor’s degree. To date, the experiences of international students who successfully complete this transfer pathway have gone largely unstudied. As a result, very little is known about the international junior transfer population. This qualitative study utilizes a phenomenology methodology to explore the shared experiences of three international junior transfer students enrolled at a large public research institution. Using a student involvement theory lens, the study sought to explore the institutional and individual factors that facilitate the populations’ persistence, graduation, and sense of belonging. Through in-person interviews, the researcher learned about participants’ transition to the university, campus involvement, interactions with peers, faculty, and advisers, success strategies, and sense of belonging on campus. The study found that their time spent in community college helped prepare them for the four-year university experience. However, due to limited time on campus and high international tuition costs, participants often prioritized activities they deemed most efficient—such as coursework and career preparation. As a result, participants rarely engaged in traditional forms of on-campus involvement. Nonetheless, social involvement was an important factor in their overall experience and success on campus. Study findings inform recommendations for administrators and practitioners to improve the experiences of international junior transfer students, including providing efficient and productive programming, creating peer mentoring programs, and addressing the high cost of attendance.