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Transitions to College: Lessons from the Disciplines

by William Trent, Margaret Terry Orr, Sheri Ranis & Jennifer Holdaway


Prior research on the challenges of college going and retention among adolescents today, particularly low-income, minority, and first-generation college-going youth, provide the context for this article.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study:

This article sets the stage for the special issue articles by framing the issue’s purpose and content. The purpose is to synthesize existing research and knowledge about the adolescent college transition from multiple disciplines and fields, in order to develop a more robust foundation for further research and policy development. The article also describes the knowledge development process used by the Social Science Research Council and its advisory committee to support field and discipline based literature reviews and to synthesize their implications over an 18 month period.


The article provides a summary of the articles presented in the special issue and a summary of the committee’s recommendations, as framed in a separate publication, Questions That Matter. It explains that the six discipline and field-based essays (history, demography, anthropology, sociology, economics, and higher education) presented in the special issue reflect a discussion of the organization of research in each field and characterizes the contributions of each field to our understanding of transitions. Together these are a rich collection of essays that map the state of the respective fields by identifying key topics and the research questions posed.


The authors conclude by drawing attention to two primary points: key elements of the challenge to improvements in research and persisting conceptual issues that challenge research, policy and practice.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 10, 2007, p. 2207-2221 ID Number: 12594, Date Accessed: 6/25/2018 4:16:16 AM

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