attrition, doctoral program, selection, admission, application


The researcher developed this study based on the Hardgrave, et al. (1993)statement that for a doctoral student, it was "more than just standardized scores, previous academic performance, and past work experience ultimately affects whether the candidate will be successful in the program" (p. 261). This study examined both the subjective and quantifiable aspects of application materials to a physics doctoral program to explore potential relationships between the credentials presented in the application and the ultimate success of the admitted students. The researcher developed questions with the goals of addressing the problem of attrition in doctoral programs and gaining a better of understanding the information provided in students' application packets. The researcher defined success as either enrolled four years after admission or attainment of the degree. This study examined the records of a population of students admitted to a physics doctoral program from the fall of 1997 to the fall of 2003 to determine their level of success as of August 2006. An exploratory analysis of the data provided answers to each of the research questions as well as an extensive understanding of the students admitted into the program during this time. This study examined both admission credentials and constructs identified by past researchers. An evaluation of the data gathered in this research revealed no relationships between these and student success as previously defined. In 1974, Willingham stated simply, "the best way to improve selection of graduate students will be to develop improved criteria for success" (p. 278). To this end, recommendations emerged regarding the decision-making process and suggestions for future research. This study was not developed to prove or disprove past research findings that predicted success from admissions information; rather, the researcher developed this study to explore each of the credentials that a student presents with his or her application packet, and to tell the story about the nuances of these credentials as they related to student success in a physics doctoral program.


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Graduation Date





Tubbs, LeVester


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Education


Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership

Degree Program

Educational Leadership








Release Date

May 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)