Throughout the United States, hundreds of thousands of children from impoverished backgrounds face obstacles in attaining higher education. This study investigates factors conducive to academic success within College of Wooster students from low and moderately low-income households. Both quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches were used to best identify and understand lower income students' family structure, previously attended schools, and social environment. The sample population consisted of predominantly white students, yet displayed diversity in terms of income, family structure, family educational history, high school location (urban, suburban, rural), and high school type (public, private). The data revealed high levels of parental involvement, expectations, and education, along with consistent student participation in extracurricular activities. Students from low and moderately low-income backgrounds are much more likely to succeed academically with the support of their parent(s), high schools, outside programs, and personal drive. Analysis revealed many College of Wooster students reporting family incomes of $50,000 or less are equipped with various forms of capital fostering their academic success, atypical of their income levels. Thus, students from the nation's most disadvantaged neighborhoods are severely underrepresented at Wooster and other well regarded institutions of higher learning. Changes in college admissions policies and an increase in the number and effectiveness of high school programs are necessary to close the growing education gap in the United States.


Gunn, Raymond


Sociology and Anthropology


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Educational Sociology | Other Economics | Other Education

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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