High School Dropout Experiences: A Social Capital Perspective


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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study was to record and analyze students' experiences with dropping out of high school within a social capital framework. Discussing the stories of high school dropouts provided valuable information related to the root causes of dropout behaviors in a social capital context. This information can be used to develop programs designed to increase social capital in schools, families, and communities, which can contribute to a decrease in dropout behaviors.

This phenomenological study took a narratological research approach that focused on collecting the lived experiences of high school dropouts within a social capital framework. The context of this study was a high school in an urban school division in Southwestern Virginia. The participants were five high school dropouts who speak English as a primary language and were a part of the general education population at the high school. Triangulation of data sources included field notes, interviews with the participants, and archival documents. A three-iteration code mapping procedure was used for data analysis to provide an audit trail.

Narrative descriptions of the life histories of each participant were written. The overarching themes resulting from the analysis across the narratives were that none of the students had relationships with members of their families or communities who had the capacity to assist them in their endeavors to complete school; students had the desire to complete school or obtain a GED, but did not have a relationship with any person outside of the school setting who was persistent with encouragement and knowledge; and the students had access to social capital, but did not understand how to use it effectively. Results and conclusions are included in two articles, one written for publication in Sociology of Education, and the other written for publication in Professional School Counseling.



dropout, school completion, social capital, school counseling, high school