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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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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 4, 2017, p. 1-40
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21664, Date Accessed: 9/17/2021 9:13:42 AM

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About the Author
  • Jeffrey Harding
    Institute of Higher Education, University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    JEFFREY HARDING is a PhD Candidate at the University of Georgia's Institute of Higher Education. He also works full time as an Education Innovation Specialist at AdvancED in Atlanta, Georgia. His research interests include P-20 issues ranging from teacher production and professionalization to postsecondary finance.
  • Maggie Parker
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    MAGGIE PARKER serves as the Associate Director for Accreditation in the Office of Accreditation and Institutional Effectiveness at the University of Georgia and is a PhD student in the University’s Institute of Higher Education. Her research interests include P-20 issues focusing on quality and success of programs for advanced students, both in high school as well as post-secondary education.
  • Robert Toutkoushian
    Institute of Higher Education, University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    ROB TOUTKOUSHIAN is a professor of higher education in the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on the application of economic models and theories to issues in higher education. Recent studies of his include an analysis of faculty salaries in public and private institutions, and the effect of Indiana’s need-based financial aid program on student access to higher education. He is also the coauthor of the forthcoming book Economics of Higher Education: Background, Concepts, and Applications (Springer).
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