Date of Award



© 2022 Robert Carlough Dawson

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Deborah Jameson

Second Advisor

Dawn Mackiewicz

Third Advisor

Lauren Marsden


Competency-based education (CBE) is a movement gaining momentum nationwide. CBE is built upon development of curricula, instructional methods, and assessment of certain skills and abilities, not purely knowledge. These skills and abilities are called competencies. Grading in a CBE-method school is often non-traditional. Rather than traditional A-F grades that appear on non-CBE transcripts, students in some CBE schools receive numeric course grades such as a 2.8 or 3.2. Educational leaders and parents have raised concerns regarding the impact these nontraditional grades may have on students during the college admissions process, particularly when applying to competitive schools.

The purpose of this qualitative interpretative phenomenological study was to examine how school counselors from competency-based schools described their lived experiences during the college admissions process while working with competitive institutions. Findings included the following: Competitive colleges initiate only limited communication with school counselors; colleges outside New England are less familiar with CBE; counselors know that colleges convert student grades to a unique number used to compare student-applicants; and a perception that their efforts to improve documentation were successful, allowing student-applicants from CBE schools to be judged on a level playing field as compared to students from more traditional schools. Recommendations for action included creation of formalized communications pathways between school counselors and admissions staff; development of more commonality in high school profiles and transcripts; distribution of this information to concerned parties; organization of public forums to discuss the impact on college admissions; and professional development for school counselors relative to these findings.


Ed.D. Dissertation

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