Students' Expectations of the College Experience Based On Their Perceptions of the Physical Environment

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies and Research

First Advisor

Arthur Southerland

Advisor Department

Educational Studies and Research


This research was designed to determine to what extent students' expectations of the college experience are based on their perceptions of the physical environments of the various college and university campuses they would probably visit in the process of deciding where to pursue their higher educational experience. Although the best method in making this determination would be to physically take students to various campuses, this was not practical. As a reasonable alternate, this study was based on visual presentations of eight colleges or university campuses to high school seniors from six high schools in Mississippi. These schools varied from urban to rural and North to South. These presentations were made by showing the students general still photos of these college and university campuses. The purpose was to provide a generic depiction of the physical environment of each of these institutions. The eight depictions were of college and university campuses in the following categories. They were paired in the following order. (1&2) Old Campus Versus New Campus; (3&4) Vehicular Oriented Campus Versus Pedestrian Oriented Campus; (5&6) Highly Landscaped Campus Versus Sparsely Landscaped Campus; (7&8) Directional Campus Versus Non-Directional Campus. These depictions provided a cross section of the various types of spaces and spatial relationships which students might encounter as they visited various campuses. Subjects were asked to respond to a series of eight questions in relation to each campus depiction. These questions were presented in the following order. (1) In relation to making new friends, this campus offers a personal and friendly environment. (2) In relation to your personal well being, this campus offers a safe place for you to attend school. (3) In relation to your learning, this campus offers a good educational opportunity. (4) In relation to your social activities, this campus offers opportunities for partying and socializing. (5) In relation to your personal interest, this campus offers opportunities for involvement in campus activities. (6) In relation to your perception of campus order, you feel comfortable with the organization of spaces and buildings on this campus. (7) In relation to your perception of campus beauty, this campus is one that you would like to show to your friends. (8) In relation to your perception of campus history, this campus has important traditions. This researcher felt that there was significant differences in student perceptions of one campus type from the next. By identifying these differences and statistically qualifying them, he felt that he created a tool that will aide designers and administrators in their planning processes as they go about the business of shaping the future environments of their various college and university campuses.