Murray, L. C. (2017). College in mind: A mixed-methods study of how emerging adults with psychiatric disabilities prepare for and transition to and through higher education (Publication No. 10274191) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


Murray, L. C. (2017). College in mind: A mixed-methods study of how emerging adults with psychiatric disabilities prepare for and transition to and through higher education (Publication No. 10274191) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


University of Pennsylvania; also available online at UPenn website database at and downloadable at


Emotional/Behavioral disability; Extended time; High school; Multiple ages; Postsecondary; Specialized setting; Student survey; U.S. context



Specific accommodations were not the central focus, but rather the perceptions and experiences of postsecondary students with psychiatric disabilities regarding academic and social dynamics associated with self-disclosing their disability-related needs, speciflcally academic supports and accommodations in both the high school and postsecondary settings. Further, incidence of accommodations use in high school versus higher education were compared and contrasted. This summary emphasizes parts of the study most informative on the incidence of use of and perceptions about academic accommodations. At least a couple assessment accommodations were noted in participants' data: extended time and separate room for exams.


Participants included the 26 postsecondary students with psychiatric disabilities who participated in interviews; 22 of these interviewees also completed surveys, along with 56 other postsecondary students with psychiatric disabilities, totaling 78 survey respondents. The population of study participants totaled 82 people. Study participants had one or more mental health challenges such as anxiety and mood disorders; additional information is detailed about these disabilities. Additional demographic information was reported, including age, gender, race; also, college year of attendance was noted. Participants' secondary and postsecondary educational experiences were described as part of both the interview and survey results.

Dependent Variable

The researcher described a mixed-method approach, including 78 quantitative survey responses and 26 qualitative interview sources; as 22 survey respondents were also interviewees, the total people participating was 82 postsecondary students with psychiatric disabilities. First, the interview questions addressed high school and postsecondary academic and social experiences, including accommodations use and perceptions, self-disclosure dynamics, and postsecondary transition process. Based on the interview data, the survey was designed to gather substantial details about students' high school and postsecondary experiences, including academics and social aspects. As the researcher stated in the Abstract: "Items address respondents’ diagnoses and treatment histories; high school experiences; choices surrounding mental health disclosures in educational contexts; college planning and application activities; and use of academic accommodations in higher education. The survey also includes measures of institutional integration in college (IIS, French & Oakes, 2004), self-perceived recovery (RAS, Corrigan et al., 1999; Corrigan et al., 2004), and a new pilot measure of disclosure."


The interview results—qualitative data—were described through several themes: "(1) Strategically Disclosing Aspects of Mental Health; (2) Constructing a Recovery Identity; and (3) Participating in College and Experiencing Social and Academic Integration on Campus" [from Abstract]. This summary emphasizes an aspect of the third theme, on academic integration. About one-fourth of the 26 interviewees reported using accommodations in the postsecondary setting. Several interviewees seemed unfamiliar with the availability of accommodations and other disability resources, and some were of the impression that these were not designed for their needs. The researcher described the self-perception of many research participants as no longer needing those supports, or even that they no longer had disabilities affecting academics. Further, these students did not seem especially concerned with the potential for stigma if self-disclosing psychiatric concerns, as about 80% of all study participants disclosed to peers in higher education after about 40% had done so with high school peers. The survey results, characterized as quantitative descriptive data, were various. The researcher emphasized that of these 78 respondents, 12 (about 15%) were identified with disabilities and were provided special education services under IEPs. Most respondents indicated having mental health problems prior to high school, yet not receiving mental health treatment for an average of six years. Respondents had attended various types of secondary schools, with some attending more than one; 95 schools in all were described, including public high schools, private day schools, religiously-affiliated schools, therapeutic schools, and home school programs. Extracurricular participation, and their social lives at the secondary and postsecondary levels, were also described yet not emphasized here due to focus on accommodation issues. Their secondary academic performance averaged 3.75 on a 4-point scale; college-level cumulative GPAs averaged 3.36. Nearly all respondents attended four year higher education programs, 37 institutions located in 31 states in the US; additional details of these institutions were reported. The fact that 15% of respondents received special education at the secondary level connected with a finding that self-disclosure of mental health-related disabilities was markedly higher at the postsecondary level than in middle or high school. Also, consequently, a majority of participants had not received special education transition support. Further, 40 respondents had considered their disabilities and postsecondary education, and 15 respondents had sought information about how higher education institutions support students with psychiatric disabilities. Even fewer, 18 respondents, considered using postsecondary accommodations prior to starting college. The researcher reported that a statistically significantly larger number of respondents, totaling 31, used academic accommodations at the postsecondary level than in high school. On accommodations use, respondents indicated that about 90% of them felt their professors were responsive in providing accommodations recommended by disability services offices, and about 71% felt that the accommodations supported their academic success. The reasons that these 31 respondents sought accommodations included: accommodations facilitated their general academic success (23%), and they use accommodations as a "back-up" as needed (7%). Types of accommodations included extended time, used by about 50% of the 31 respondents, and separate testing room, used by 6% of them. Another 47 respondents did not use accommodations, noting reasons including (in decreasing order of frequency): not needing them, not identifying with disabilities, not wanting professors to perceive students getting "special treatment," general embarrassment, not sensing the accommodations would be helpful, not wanting peers to know of their disabilities, and not feeling as if they qualify for accommodations. The researcher provided substantial detail about conditions and reasons around student disclosures of disabilities.