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A Review of the Transition to College Literature in Sociology

by Regina Deil-Amen & Ruth N. López Turley - 2007


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.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 10, 2007, p. 2324-2366
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12583, Date Accessed: 2/26/2021 10:50:44 AM

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About the Author
  • Regina Deil-Amen
    University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education
    E-mail Author
    REGINA DEIL-AMEN is an assistant professor of education at the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education. Her areas of expertise are sociology of education/higher education, and her research interests include educational stratification/inequality, community college students’ aspirations and persistence, and race, ethnicity and social class in educational settings. Her major work includes a study she directed about how community colleges and private career/technical, or “occupational,” colleges structure education differently and use different institutional procedures to prepare students for sub-baccalaureate careers. The book, After Admission, written with James Rosenbaum, details the findings of that project. Her latest research involves a qualitative study of urban, low SES, community college bound students’ transition from high school to two and four year colleges.
  • Ruth López Turley
    University of Wisconsin, Madison
    RUTH LOPEZ TURLEY is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. Her research and teaching interests include educational inequality, neighborhood effects, child poverty, race and ethnicity, social stratification, and research methods. She was a 2004 recipient of the National Academy of Education / Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship for her work on the effect of college proximity on high school students' likelihood of applying to college.
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