Aspirations, Expectations, and Influences on the Post-secondary Plans of Rural Youth

Open Access
Corra, Jennifer Lynn
Graduate Program:
Rural Sociology
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 28, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Diane Krantz Mclaughlin, Dissertation Advisor
  • Leland Luther Glenna, Committee Member
  • Leif Jensen, Committee Member
  • Jerry G Trusty, Committee Member
  • aspirations
  • emerging adulthood
  • rural
  • youth
  • habitus
  • social networks
  • social capital
This study examines the influences that high school seniors considered when making their plans for after graduation. Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and Coleman’s social capital theory inform the conceptual framework. Qualitative interviews were conducted with students and school counselors from four rural Kentucky school districts. Family, peers and social networks, schools, school personnel, and communities shaped respondents’ preferences and the options they considered for their futures. Respondents reported aspirations that reflected an internalization of the expectations they heard from conversations they had with those around them, and they chose colleges and careers that were already familiar to them through their networks. Rural communities were influential in that respondents chose careers or colleges geographically close to home or recreated the small town feel they liked, or they picked majors that would give them the flexibility to stay or move later. Maximizing their future job opportunities was a primary consideration, while paying for college closely followed. The fear of what comes after high school and how their lives will change also was a concern among respondents. Within these considerations, respondents discussed college and career aspirations, though they did not necessarily act on plans to pursue them.