Deciding About College: How Soon Is Soon Enough?
by Jeffrey Harding, Maggie C. Parker & Robert K. Toutkoushian — 2017
Background/Context: Prior research has stressed the importance of timing in the college choice process, especially as it relates to receiving early information and making plans and decisions. Little has been done, however, in terms of empirically demonstrating how soon students make their decisions about college and the ways in which the timing of student decisions are related to planning behaviors.
Focus of Study: This paper examines the relationships between the timing of decisions related to college attendance and outcomes such as aspirations, course-taking patterns in high school, and eventual college application. It also considers how the timing and various sources of information are related to when students make these decisions.
Research Design: This study provides secondary statistical analysis of data obtained from a statewide survey of high school seniors in New Hampshire during the spring of the 2004–2005 school year.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Findings suggest that the dominant model of college choice involving predisposition, search, and choice should be updated to acknowledge that predisposition may begin much earlier than the literature has typically considered. To wit, many students begin gathering information and making decisions about postsecondary education as early as elementary school. Additional resources should be dispatched to address the needs of economically disadvantaged and first-generation students who often lack the types of human, social, and financial capital needed to make the most of their early educational opportunities.
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