The freshman fizzle: A case study at the New York University Stern School of Business Undergraduate College

Susan M Greenbaum, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This qualitative case study explored the combination of elements that transformed a group of high-achieving high school students into underachievers during their freshman year at the New York University Stern School of Business Undergraduate College (Stern). This research was designed to uncover the reasons the fire in the belly goes out for some students at this highly selective institution, or in other words, what causes some high potential freshmen to fizzle. The population examined in this study was those students who came with high credentials, but whose GPA put them into the bottom of the freshman class. This phenomenological study examined, from the students' point of views, the influences and experiences that affected their academic performance at Stern. My inquiry was framed by Vincent Tinto's 1997 Student Integration Model and examined student academic success through an analysis of the participants' perceptions of their academic and social integration and engagement. This study sought to find connections between the students' insights into their observations of the Stern culture and the non-traditional New York University campus, combined with their pre-entry attributes and goals and how these elements intertwined to lead to the dramatic drop in level of academic performance. Findings indicated that the common experiences of these students centered on expectations, effort and integration into the academic and social environments of Stern. The students' long-term focus on career goals short-changed the examination of their academic goals. Many of the underachievers justified their low performance by denying its reality. They found themselves socially isolated because of a perceived lack of fit with the Stern culture and an inability to navigate the open NYU campus. To overcome these issues a number of recommendations for more institutional support are offered. Interest in studying business at the undergraduate level is growing and attracting some of the most academically capable students in the country. Research on this population will be of interest to higher education as we seek to provide these highly qualified students with the opportunity to reach their highest academic potential.

Subject Area

Business education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Greenbaum, Susan M, "The freshman fizzle: A case study at the New York University Stern School of Business Undergraduate College" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3311550.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3311550

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