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A Review of the Transition to College Literature in Sociology

by Regina Deil-Amen & Ruth N. López Turley


This review focuses on the transition to college literature in sociology published since 1983 with an emphasis on revealing the contribution that sociology has made to our understanding of under-represented U.S. populations and their transition into and completion of postsecondary education.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study:

The review is organized around four main themes: 1) college preparation, 2) college access, 3) financing college, and 4) college completion and/or retention. Five dimensions that cut across these themes are emphasized: 1) disadvantaged or underrepresented students, 2) parents, families, and social networks of these students, 3) institutions, 4) federal, regional, state, local, or other policies, and 5) systemwide or interactive factors.

Research Design:

This is an analytic essay of prior analyses. These prior analyses include but are not limited to a range of methods, such as qualitative case study and secondary analysis of national, regional, and institutional data.


This review finds that while most sociological research has focused on college preparation, with disadvantaged students at the center of this work, very little research has studied college financing.


Sociological studies relevant to the transition to college continue to strive toward that end, but the field still remains underdeveloped with regard to an emphasis on how the wider societal system of stratification and opportunity interact with individuals, social groups, and educational institutions in a dynamic interplay that affects opportunities for quality educational advancement. In some respects, the prominence of the status attainment framework has limited progress in the field of sociology. Although multi-level modeling affords the opportunity to consider not just the individual, but the individual embedded in particular educational contexts and other contexts, the role of institutional and systemwide factors requires further development among sociologists of education.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 10, 2007, p. 2324-2366 ID Number: 12583, Date Accessed: 5/21/2018 9:08:45 AM

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