Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2023

Thesis Director

Dianne Timm

Thesis Committee Member

April Jackson

Thesis Committee Member

Danny Gourley Fischer


There are more students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in higher education now than ever before and these students need to be supported in ways that will guarantee their success. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the experiences of six students with ASD as they transition into higher education through the use of semi-structured interviews. What was discovered is that students with ASD typically overestimate the difficulty of academics and underestimate the amount of social interaction they will encounter at the college level. These students are able to identify aspects of themselves that help them to succeed while also developing strategies to manage their stress. This research found that on-campus supports are underutilized by students with ASD due to a lack of knowledge of the supports, difficulties attaining support, or fear of stigmas associated with support. The participants of this study discuss their experiences before and during college, as well as their decision-making process regarding disclosing their diagnosis of an ASD. This study developed a theoretical model to visually understand the experiences of this population. Real-world implications are discussed along with recommendations for those supporting these students in transition, from a variety of different perspectives.