Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2023 Natalia Abbate. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Sociology & Anthropology Department

First Advisor

Maya Nadkarni


This thesis examines college application choices, conceptions of pressure and ambition, and parenting styles as they affect personal statement success in an upper-middle-class suburb of Massachusetts. I draw on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital and Adrie Kusserow’s theory of soft individualism to analyze five semi-structured interviews with Eastborough, MA parents, students, and a private college counselor. I show that Eastborough parents and students stigmatize peers with overt college ambitions despite enacting ambition themselves. They represent their soft individualism approach as a potential sacrifice for college chances, but it ultimately provides students with two things that college admissions officers value greatly in personal statements: unique achievements and self-knowledge. This thesis sheds light on how cultural capital, as manifested in classed parenting styles, helps to gatekeep elite education and ultimately reproduce class.