Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in First Year Studies


First-Year and Transition Studies

Committee Chair

James Davis, Ph.D.

Additional Committee Member

Stephanie M. Foote, Ph.D.

Additional Committee Member

Michael Sanseviro, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to research the meaning behind first-year students’ self-authorship development and how that development correlates to their ability to retain a merit-based scholarship and likelihood of persisting to the second year of college. This study sought to examine the ways students make meaning of their identities and development during the transition and throughout the first year of college. The study was conducted at a mid-sized, 4-year public liberal arts institution in the Southeast United States and the research used the theoretical framework of Baxter Magolda’s Self-Authorship development (Kegan, 1994; Baxter Magolda, 2005). One-on-one interviews with six HOPE Scholar participants in the study concluded that: 1) first-year students are moving between the beginning phases of self-authorship; 2) a merit-based scholarship was a motivating and influencing factor to maintain a 3.0 GPA in the first college year; 3) there is no evident connection between retaining a merit-based scholarship and persistence to the second year; and 4) merit-based scholarships play a role in increasing engagement in course work and co-curricular activities, while providing the option for students to work less in college. Implications for research involve replicating the same research on a larger scale, and further research on the connection of merit-based scholarships and persistence. Implications for higher education and practitioners includes promoting self-authorship development in first-year students through programming and intervention efforts while connecting the developed programs to assist students in maintaining a “B” average or higher grade point average (GPA) to retain a merit-based scholarship.