The college application gauntlet : how the structure and complexity of the steps to four-year college enrollment affect students' college choices
- This dissertation proceeds as three separate but related papers. Each works to investigate the importance of the many steps required to enroll in college such as taking the right courses in high school, taking the SAT or ACT, and ultimately completing college applications. The first paper looks descriptively at how students move through the steps to four-year college enrollment. Few studies have examined the steps to college enrollment between college aspiration and college enrollment and how these steps might present a barrier to four-year college enrollment. This study used data from the Education Longitudinal Study: 2002 and employed a multivariate random effects logistic framework to examine the completion of nine steps to enrollment based on student background characteristics and the completion of prior steps. Racial and family income gaps in step completion can be mostly accounted for by differences in academic preparation. Accounting for social and cultural capital reduced, but did not eliminate, remaining gaps. Finally, completion of early steps strongly predicts completion of later steps, though this momentum appeared much stronger for White students than Black or Hispanic ones. The findings suggest college coaching programs should target students early in their high school careers and work to foster college aspirations and provide information about steps to college enrollment. The second paper considers the college enrollment effects of state-required SAT and ACT testing. Since 2001 Colorado, Illinois, and Maine have all enacted policies that require high school juniors to take college entrance exams—the SAT or the ACT. One goal of these policies was to increase college enrollment based on the belief that requiring students to take these exams would make students more likely to consider college as a viable option. Relying on quasi-experimental methods and synthetic control comparison groups, this article presents the effects of this state-mandated college entrance-exam testing. Based on both state- and individual-level analyses I find evidence that entrance exam policies were associated with increases in overall college enrollment in Illinois and that such policies re-sorted students in all three states between different types of institutions. In particular, Colorado saw an increase in enrollment at private four-year institutions, while Illinois and Maine both saw a decrease in enrollment at pubic two-year institutions. Increases in enrollment at schools that require entrance exams for admissions support the hypothesis that lack of exam scores can present barriers to college entry. The third paper investigates the effect of using the Common Application, a standardized college application form that makes it easier for students to apply to multiple colleges, on students' enrollment decisions. There is little research on how students' college decisions may be influenced by minor facets of the college admission process such as the relative difficulty of completing college applications. I demonstrate that these theoretically minor concerns are, in fact, quite important to the college enrollment process by studying students' use of the Common Application to apply to college. I take advantage of the change in colleges that accept the Common Application between the cohorts of students in the nationally representative NELS and ELS data sets and use an instrumental variables approach to explore the causal effect of the Common Application on students' college enrollment choices and persistence. In theory, the ease of applying to multiple schools through the use of the Common Application has the potential to affect both whether and where students choose to apply to college and, subsequently, the quality of the student-college match. I find evidence that the Common Application does alter students' enrollment choices and has no effect on their likelihood of staying enrolled in college. Thus, despite the enormity of the college decision, small alterations to steps in the college enrollment process can affect high school students' behavior.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Klasik, Daniel John
|Stanford University, School of Education.
|Reardon, Sean F
|Reardon, Sean F
|Statement of responsibility
|Daniel John Klasik.
|Submitted to the School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2013.
- © 2013 by Daniel John Klasik
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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