Sense of Belonging and Transition to College: A Qualitative Case Study of Freshmen and Sophomores in Physics and Chemistry

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice


Difficulty in retaining college students in STEM majors is one of the key contributors to the scarcity of STEM graduates and a short supply of STEM workers in the United States. Two factors that are closely related to retention and achievement are transition to college and sense of belonging and involvement. We conducted a case study to explore the transitional experiences and sense of belonging of five low-income, academically talented college freshmen and sophomores in chemistry and physics. Although participants reported a high sense of belonging, this alone did not necessarily lead to retention. Involvement in academic organizations and activities such as clubs and research groups played a more important role in the scholars’ decisions to remain in their degree programs. The findings of our research also suggest that faculty in STEM areas may benefit from systematic professional development with a focus on curriculum design and pedagogy.


Teacher Education



This document is currently not available here.