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The senior year: A study of transition, liminality and students' perspectives of their final year as undergraduates

Brian Thomas McCoy, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study was to gain insights into the undergraduate senior year of college. Through the use of in-depth, phenomenological interviewing, four college seniors shared their previous experiences with life transitions and described how they were experiencing their final year as undergraduates. This study described the experiences of the participants and explored these questions: (1) What is the senior year of college like? (2) What are the challenges that students face in their senior year? (3) How does the undergraduate experience and cope with this transition? (4) Are the experiences in the senior year consistent with transition theory and inclusive of a liminal stage? The exploration of these types of questions sought the deeper meaning of the senior year experience and how it impacts the undergraduate. The results of this study were consistent with existing literature that identifies the undergraduate senior's two primary challenges as securing post-college employment and deciding where to live after college. The significant findings of this study emerged through examining the senior year as its own unique slice of the undergraduate experience. In doing so, it become evident that the participants' experiences during their senior year reflected the first-two stages of Schlossberg's theory of adult transitions, and identified much of the senior year as a liminal state. Additionally, what surfaced from the participants' insights was how the liminal experience of the participants was strongly influenced (positively and negatively) by two factors—(1) the individual's success in securing a post-college life and (2) friends. This study also demonstrated that the experiences of these participants, while not representative of all college seniors, call for further concentrated research of the undergraduate senior year experience, with emphasis on the impact of friends on this life transition.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

McCoy, Brian Thomas, "The senior year: A study of transition, liminality and students' perspectives of their final year as undergraduates" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3078708.