Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Education

First Advisor

Brandi Hephner-LaBanc

Second Advisor

Juanyce D. Taylor

Third Advisor

Nichelle Robinson


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Although they are not involved in the decision making process, admission officers at institutions of higher learning could have a significant effect on the admission process. For the purposes of this research, admission officers are defined as the primary personnel assisting applicants to complete their applications through the collection of applications, fees, essays, transcripts, test scores, and other supplemental documents required by the institution for admission consideration. More specifically, their implicit biases could significantly affect the admission process. Research on implicit biases is on the rise, and studies investigating this issue in health care and hiring practices are abundant. Implicit biases in higher education have been studied as they relate to the interview section of the admission process. In order for applicants to make it to the interview section, they usually must have a complete application. This research was conducted through a case study of the freshman admission process at a southeastern public institution including two focus group sessions and joint interviews. Admission officers were introduced to implicit bias and completed three Implicit Association Tests (IATs). The aggregate results of the tests were presented to the admission officers in a group setting to discuss the results as a group. The transcripts of these interviews were coded to identify whether implicit bias, systematic bias, or both affected the institution’s freshman admission process. Research participants unanimously agreed systematic bias rather than implicit bias was more prevalent in the freshman admission process at the institution but stated admission officer implicit bias could significantly affect institutional admissions depending upon the application processing procedure. Through this research, areas of the admission process where implicit biases may exist were identified and ways to reduce the effect of admission officers’ implicit biases on the process were hypothesized.



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