Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in First Year Studies


First-Year and Transition Studies

Committee Chair

Deborah N. Smith, Ph.D.

Additional Committee Member

Nirmal Trivedi, Ph.D.

Additional Committee Member

Jennifer Wells, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to learn how colleges and universities can help first-year college students who are young, unmarried mothers succeed. The transition from high school to college is a bit of a learning curve. In high school, students have a very structured environment and much of their schedule is planned for them. When they get to college, they are expected to be independent adults and know how to manage their own lives. This can be very difficult and many students struggle through their first year of college. Students who become mothers before or during their first year of college have to learn an additional set of responsibilities as they learn how to be a parent and raise a child. The challenge of learning how to balance the roles of student and mother are difficult enough as they both require a lot of time. All of these challenges - being a mother, a student, and a first-time college student can be very overwhelming and thus make succeeding in college a struggle. I designed and conducted a research study to learn about the experiences of first-year college students who are young unmarried mothers. This study was conducted at a large southeastern university with eight participants who were either current students or graduates of the university. I conducted one-on-one interviews in my office and the interview method was either in-person or over the phone. To be eligible for the study participants currently had to be between the ages of 18-30 and at the time their child was born, been in their first-year of college, unmarried and between the ages of 18-21. Study results indicate first-year college students who are young, unmarried mothers need; 1) relationships on-campus to succeed, 2) devoted campus resources, and 3) opportunities to build a sense of belongingness. Implications include the development of a student parent scholar program on-campus, the development of a student parent resource center and on-campus childcare.