Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in First Year Studies


First-Year and Transition Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Stephanie M. Foote

Additional Committee Member

Dr. James Davis

Additional Committee Member

Dr. Jennifer Keup



In a time where colleges and universities are taking strides to consider their communication strategies with incoming students there appears to be a lack of attention on the language within communication pieces and what messages that language conveys to students. This study sought to examine this language through inductive analysis of four research questions which explored what the communication pieces are, what relationship they build, the discourse language present, and the strategies of empowerment language within the communication pieces distributed to all incoming first-year students at a large, public comprehensive four-year university in the Southeastern United States. Research on college adjustment, student success, and making meaning was considered before explaining the creation of a rubric created to conduct analysis for this study using perspectives from Foucault (1972) and Weimer (2013). Results exposed the necessity of language balance, as well as the influence the communication process can have on a transactional relationship, the importance of word choice, opportunities to use language that can motivate choice and participation, and an emerging theme about the importance of a communication experience. Additional findings were related to the importance of mode and revisions to the rubric developed for this study which may serve as a model to develop and evaluate communication pieces. Implications for future research involve deeper exploration of the impact of language and understanding how language can influence other collegiate transitions. Implications for practice involve increased collaboration across departments toward communication experiences and bolstering language balance through intentionality and appropriate word choice for incoming first-year students.