International Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy

A Reader

by Virginia Stead (Volume editor)
©2015 Textbook X, 441 Pages


The promise of this admission policy reader arises from the embodiment of research from 58 authors, six continents, 20 time zones, 20+ first languages, and a broad array of research methodologies. Four sections aggregate key themes within the text:
(1) National Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy;
(2) Theoretical Approaches to Higher Education Admission Policy;
(3) Applicant Recruitment and Student Support Services in Higher Education; and
(4) Diversity and Equity in Higher Education Admission Policy Implementation.
This book's global chorus of professional experience, investigation, and insight is unprecedented in its breadth and depth, illuminating a rare swath of challenges and opportunities that Internet-sourced international higher education makes visible. Although each chapter is an independent research report, together they generate a new landscape for admission policy orientation, exploration, and activism. The sheer range of policies and organizational infrastructure will alert all readers to many complexities within the admissions process that remain invisible within single or multiple but similar cultural and political contexts.
Many of these authors have demonstrated courage along with their intellectual acumen in tackling politically sensitive, culturally taboo, and personally dangerous topics within their research. Theirs is a moving testimony to the global quest for fairness within the world of admission policy implementation and to the power of access to higher education. Together, we are determined to advance equitable admissions praxis within all institutions of higher learning and promising futures for all students.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface … and a Call to Action
  • 1 Solving the U.S. College Admissions Mismatch Process: The Importance of High School Norms and Values
  • Introduction
  • The Mismatch Process
  • Barriers to Admission
  • Problems of Measuring Performance and Preparation
  • More Than Raising High School Students’ Aspirations
  • What Can Be Done to Connect Colleges and Universities?
  • Filling the Gap in College-University Relationships
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 2 Higher Education Admission Policy and Practices in India
  • Concepts of Higher Education
  • The Vedic School
  • The Buddhist School
  • The Islamic School
  • The Platonic School
  • Freire’s Philosophy
  • UNESCO Literature
  • India’s Constitutional Provisions for Higher Education
  • Definition of Higher Education for Policy Purposes
  • Why Indians Seek Admission to Higher Education
  • Measures of Admissions in Higher Education
  • Official Initiatives to Expand Higher Education Admissions
  • Regulatory Bodies of Higher Education Admission
  • The University Grants Commission (UGC)
  • The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE)
  • The Distance Education Council (DEC)
  • The Council of Architecture (COA)
  • Institutions Admitting Students to Advanced-level Research Programs
  • The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR)
  • The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR)
  • The Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR)
  • The National Council of Rural Institutes (NCRI)
  • The Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS)
  • Nationally Funded Institutions of Higher Education
  • Socioeconomic Issues in the Evolution of Higher Education Admissions
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 3 From Policy to Action under Hungary’s Accountability Paradigm: Trends and Processes in Teacher Training
  • International Trends and Processes
  • Key Competencies
  • Hungarian Answers to International Challenges
  • Four Steps towards Reform
  • From Policy to Action (A Case Study)
  • Course Context and Rationale
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 4 Between Social and Academic Considerations: Admission Policies of South African Universities
  • Introduction
  • The Historical Evolution of Higher Education in South Africa
  • Beginnings: Higher Education for White South Africans
  • Segregation and Higher Education for Black South Africans
  • Technikons
  • Teacher Training Colleges
  • Resistance against Segregated Education
  • Post-1994 Restructuring of Education and Higher Education
  • Admission Policies
  • Pre-1994 Admission Policies
  • Post-1994 Admission Policies
  • Assessment
  • Size of Admission Intake
  • Equalization
  • Low Quality of Student Intakes
  • Internal Inefficiency
  • Concluding Outlook
  • References
  • 5 The Irish Experiment: Undergraduate Admissions for the Twenty-First Century
  • Introduction
  • Drawbacks to the Existing Admissions System
  • The Problem of Defining Merit
  • The Proposed New Admissions Route
  • Objective of the Feasibility Study
  • How the Feasibility Study Was Developed
  • What Trinity College, Dublin Is Looking For
  • Launch of the Feasibility Study
  • Assessing the Success or Failure of the Feasibility Study
  • Procedures for Evaluating Applications in the Study
  • Some Positives and Negatives of the Proposed Study
  • Concluding Reaction to the Reform Proposals
  • References
  • 6 Iran’s Brain Drain: University Admission Policy and the Flight of Intellectual Capital
  • Introduction
  • Historical Review of Education in Iran
  • Higher Education in the Early to Prerevolutionary Context
  • Revolution and Education
  • Current Structure and Institutions of Higher Learning
  • Policies for Entrance to Higher Education
  • Konkur
  • Moral Examinations and Other Selection Criteria
  • University Admission Based on Religion, Gender, and Ethnic Minority Status
  • Admission Quotas for High Status Groups
  • Intellectual Capital
  • New Social Movement Theory and the Flight of Iran’s Intellectual Capital
  • Brain Drain: In Response to the University Entrance Examination
  • Brain Drain: In Response to the Cultural Revolution in Higher Education
  • Brain Drain: In Response to a Second Cultural Revolution?
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • References
  • 7 The Case of Pakistan: Higher Education Admission Policy and Practice
  • Introduction
  • Status of Higher Education
  • Admission Policy: Access
  • Admission Policy: Equity
  • Admission Policy: Quality
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • 8 A Review of Enrollment System Reforms and Prospects for Chinese Higher Education Institutions
  • Introduction
  • History
  • Prior to the People’s Republic of China
  • From Independent to Unified
  • Ten Years without Gaokao
  • Resumption of the National College Examination
  • Reforms Launched at the End of the Twentieth Century
  • Current Policies
  • Gaokao and the Provincial Proposition
  • Spring Gaokao
  • Admission Sequence
  • Bonus Points for Gaokao
  • Students of Certain Groups
  • Students Taking Part in Independent Recruitment
  • Universities’ Enrollment Quota in Each Province
  • Conclusions
  • Controversies
  • Prospects
  • References
  • 9 Higher Education for Latin America: Two Challenges in a Field of Opportunities
  • Introduction
  • Regional Overview
  • Two Challenges for Higher Education
  • Higher Education for Social Justice
  • Intercultural Higher Education
  • Final Reflections
  • Conclusion: The Need for Better Information for Making the Best Possible Policy Decisions
  • Redefinition of the Quality of Higher Education
  • Recognition and Support for Multiple Forms of Educational Success
  • References
  • 10 Admission Policy in Contemporary Russia: Recent Changes, Expected Outcomes, and Potential Winners
  • Introduction
  • The Impact of Income on Student Achievement and University Choice: Results of Empirical Studies
  • Students’ Achievement on the Basis of Their USE Scores and Levels of Income
  • Differences in USE Results under Fixed Achievement
  • Relationships between Characteristics of Pre-entry Coaching and Levels of Income
  • Relationships between College Choice and Income Status
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendix
  • 11 Applicant Evaluation as Admissions Practice: A Sociocognitive Framework of Faculty Judgment in American Doctoral Admissions
  • Introduction
  • Seven Propositions for Empirical Research
  • Definitions
  • Foundations of the Framework
  • Results
  • Conclusion and Significance
  • Notes
  • References
  • 12 Spain and France: Moving from Democratization towards Elitism in Access to Higher Education
  • Introduction
  • Contextualizing Academic Models of Secondary Education
  • Secondary Education in Spain
  • Secondary Education in France
  • Assorted Curricular Pathways toward Higher Education
  • The University Entrance Exam (PAU) in Spain: Maturity versus Selection
  • Entrance for Candidates Older Than 25
  • Other Routes to Higher Studies
  • The Reform Proposals of the New Government
  • Comparative Access to Higher Education in France and Spain
  • Selective Access to Prestigious Institutions
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • 13 North American Native Ways of Knowing: Linking Indigenous Theory and Practice within Higher Education Admissions
  • Introduction
  • Native Ways of Knowing
  • Indigenous Pedagogy/Andragogy Practice
  • Comanche-Centered Educational Practice
  • American Indian Higher Education Consortium
  • Tribal Membership and Enrollment
  • Native American Serving, Non-Tribal Colleges Admissions Policies
  • One Campus, Many Nations
  • Native American Serving, Non-Tribal Colleges
  • World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC)
  • Approaches to Change
  • Notes
  • References
  • 14 Who Is the Best Candidate? Selecting Students in Competitive UK Admissions Contexts
  • Introduction
  • Does Undergraduate Selection Matter?
  • Normative Considerations
  • Admissions Practice
  • Case Briefs: University of Oxford
  • Case Briefs: Harvard College
  • Case Briefs: The Netherlands Lottery System
  • Empirical Observations
  • Further Questions about Admissions Complexity
  • Concluding Discussion
  • References
  • 15 Undergraduate College Choice Theory Applied to Graduate Student Needs
  • Introduction
  • Access to Higher Education Continues to Expand
  • Formalized Study of the College-Choice Process Emerges
  • The College Choice Model Emerges
  • Recent Trends in College-Choice Research
  • Initial Forays into Graduate Student College Choice
  • Overlap, Divergence, and Opportunity for Study in Graduate Student College-Choice Study
  • Graduate Student College Choice in a Competitive Economic Climate
  • Implications for Further Study
  • References
  • 16 Place Matters: Undergraduate Admission Policy in Mainland PR China
  • Introduction
  • Selection Approaches and Process
  • The Selection Approaches
  • The Selection Process
  • The Quota Admission Policy
  • Quota Admission in Practice
  • Analysis
  • The Reasons
  • Problems and Consequences
  • The Preferential Admission Policy for Minorities
  • The Support
  • Problems
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 17 College Admission Tests: An Ohio Perspective
  • Introduction
  • Current Format of the SAT and ACT
  • A Brief History of College Admission Testing in the United States
  • Why Do Admission Offices Rely on Testing?
  • Predictive Validity Research
  • How Do Admission Officers Use Test Scores?
  • Criticisms of Standardized Admission Tests
  • Alternatives
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 18 A Longitudinal Study of Admissions to the Undergraduate College of Education, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Introduction
  • Outline
  • Background
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Teacher Identity
  • The Saskatchewan Context
  • Formulating and Approving the Admissions Process
  • Developing Instrumentation
  • Concluding Implications
  • References
  • 19 Turkish Learning Organizations and Internet Technology (IT): Sources of Quality Strategies in Higher Education Admission
  • Introduction
  • Higher Education for the Development of a Learning Society
  • Policy and Strategy for Quality in Higher Education
  • Use of Technology and E-learning Applications
  • Lifelong Learning Philosophy
  • Professional Academic Collaboration (Professional Community Unit)
  • Research-Based Facilities and Sector Collaboration
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • 20 Undergraduate Admissions as U.S. Public Policy
  • Introduction
  • The Public University
  • Admissions Policy and the Public University
  • Admissions Policy as Public Policy
  • Admissions Policies and Student Academic Qualifications
  • Admissions Policies Governing Residents and Nonresidents
  • Admissions Policies Governing the Consideration of Race
  • Conclusions from Considering Admissions Policy as Public Policy
  • References
  • 21 Open-Access Policies at Community College Global Counterparts
  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Methodology
  • Open-Access Philosophy
  • Ramifications of Open-Access Policies
  • Maintaining Social Inequalities
  • Challenging Social Inequalities
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 22 The Effectiveness of U.S. Summer Bridge Programs in Supporting Minority Student College Admissions
  • Introduction
  • The Elitist P-16 Pipeline
  • Social Justice Implications
  • Overview of Bridge Programs
  • Historical Context
  • Contemporary Status and Description
  • Promising Programs
  • Upward Bound
  • Talent Search
  • Additional Campus-Based Programs
  • Community-Based Programs
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 23 Social Media, Recruitment, and U.S. College Admissions
  • Introduction
  • Social Media: As a Whole and in Parts
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Publishing
  • Photo, Audio, and Video-Sharing Sites
  • Blogs
  • Virtual Worlds
  • Social Bookmarking Sites
  • Social Networking Sites by Function
  • Networking Social Media and College Recruitment
  • Facebook
  • Internal Networking Sites
  • Other Public Networking Sites
  • Information-sharing Social Media and College Recruitment
  • Social Media and College Recruitment: How Can It Work?
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 24 Rethinking Meritocracy in Japan: Diversification of University Entrance Procedures
  • Introduction
  • Context
  • Conceptual Framework
  • The General Entrance Exam (ippan nyuushi)
  • National Center Exam (sentaa shiken)
  • The Recommendation System (suisen nyuugaku)
  • Admission Office Procedures (AO nyuushi) and Special Procedures (AO tokubetsu senkou)
  • Meritocracy
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 25 Student Access and Retention in Brazilian Higher Education: Reflections and Commentary on Public Federal Universities
  • Introduction
  • The Problem: Elitist Public Policy in Higher Education
  • University Culture Clash
  • Media Massification and the Dissolution of Information Borders
  • Twenty-First-Century Transformations
  • Affirmative Action Policies for Higher Education Admissions
  • Faculty Barriers to Higher Education Access and Retention
  • Public Policy Barriers to Higher Education Access and Retention
  • Research Marketization as a Barrier to Higher Education Diversification
  • A Call for State Support of University Diversification
  • Promising Developments
  • The Enduring Dilemma: Faculty Engagement with Policy Administration
  • Concluding Remarks
  • References
  • 26 Diversity in American Graduate Education Admissions: Twenty-First-Century Challenges and Opportunities
  • Introduction
  • Benefits of Diversity in Higher Education
  • Affirmative Action in U.S. Higher Education
  • The Beginnings: From Bakke to Grutter
  • Affirmative Action in the Twenty-First Century
  • Best Practices for Underrepresented Minority (URM) and Underrepresented Population (URP) Admissions
  • Race-Neutral Practices
  • Holistic Application Reviews
  • High-Impact Graduate Recruitment Fairs for URMs
  • Designated Admissions Professionals for URPs
  • Graduate School Visitation Programs for URPs
  • Undergraduate Research Experiences (UREs) for URPs
  • Building Relationships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)
  • Programs That Serve URMs and Other URPs
  • Targeted Funding for URPs
  • URM Graduate Students
  • URM Faculty
  • Marketing Materials for URPs
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 27 Rethinking the Evaluation of University Admission Policy and Practice: A Canadian Neoinstitutional Perspective
  • Introduction
  • Current Admission Paradigm in Canada
  • Admission Policies and Practices
  • A Framework for Evaluating University Admission Policy
  • The Neoinstitutional Perspective
  • Institutional Autonomy
  • Institutional Complexity and Historical Context
  • Structural and Pragmatic Considerations
  • Feedback Opportunities
  • Social Justice Orientation
  • Evaluating University Admission Policy: Where to Next?
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 28 Higher Education Access Policies in the Post-Soviet Region: Standardization, Testing, and Corruption
  • Introduction
  • Methodology and Sample Selection Criteria
  • Evolving Forms of Higher Education Corruption
  • The Soviet Era: Closed Elite Circles, Nepotism, and Favoritism
  • Post-Soviet Administrative Decentralization and Chaos
  • Bribe Prices During Post-Soviet Period (the 1990s) and the Probability of Engaging in Bribery
  • Public Perceptions of Corruption and Resource Shortages in the Early 2000s
  • Standardized Testing
  • Conclusions
  • Notes
  • References
  • 29 Nonacademic Indicators in UK Higher Education Admissions: A Case Study of the Personal Statement
  • Introduction
  • What Are Personal Statements and How Are They Used in HE Admissions Processes Around the Globe?
  • Is the Personal Statement a Fair Way to Assess Applicants?
  • The Rise of the College Admissions Consultant
  • Can Personal Statements Be Used in a Less Discriminatory Way?
  • Three Criteria for Nonacademic Indicators: Functionality, Fairness, Transparency
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 30 Credit Accumulation and Transfer in UK Admission Policy
  • Introduction
  • Credit Accumulation and Transfer
  • From Consortia to the National Qualifications Framework
  • Programme Specifications
  • Discussion
  • References
  • 31 Contextual Higher Education Admissions as UK Affirmative Action: A Conceptual and Policy Analysis
  • Introduction
  • Higher Education Admissions and the Emergence of Affirmative Action
  • Meritocracy and Liberalism: The Route to Democratisation?
  • Affirmative Action and Backlash
  • Social Reproduction and Social Justice: Embracing Fairness?
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • 32 Admission Policy as a Source of Equity in Higher Education: Lessons from Canadian Teacher Education
  • Introduction
  • An Equitable Framework Trifecta
  • Global Education Contexts
  • Teacher Education Admissions
  • Educational Policy Implementation
  • Conceptual Framework
  • Qualitative Methodology
  • Recommendations for Higher Education Admission Policy
  • Equitable Representation and Interaction
  • Attention to Policy Context
  • Policy Conceptualization, Articulation, and Communication
  • Recommendations for Higher Education Admissions Procedures
  • Admission Policy Transparency
  • Inclusive Representations of Diversity
  • Confidentiality in Personal Information Management
  • Equitable Personal Information Assessment
  • Recommendations for Research
  • Educational Equity
  • Deliberate and Flexible Qualitative Sampling
  • Higher Education Admission Policy
  • The Third Stage of Educational Policy Implementation: Policy Operationalization
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 33 Diversifying the American Legal Profession: Racial/Ethnic Minority Law Student Admissions Experiences
  • Introduction
  • Purpose of the Chapter
  • A Brief Literature Review
  • The Law School Study
  • Major Findings from the Study
  • Family and Finances
  • Faculty and Staff Connection
  • Law School Reputation
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • 34 Influences of Summer Research Programs on the Enrollment of Minority Students in U.S. Graduate Schools
  • Introduction
  • SROP: Increasing Opportunities for Underrepresented Students
  • SROP: Influencing Underrepresented Student Graduate School Choice
  • SROP Participation: Socializing Underrepresented Students to Graduate School
  • Methods
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 35 University Admissions in Australia: Multiple Pathways to the Same Destination
  • Introduction
  • Who Goes to University in Australia? Characteristics of the Undergraduate Population
  • Enrolment Characteristics
  • Demographic Characteristics
  • Provider Characteristics
  • Recent Expansion of Higher Education in Australia
  • Admissions Pathways in Australia
  • School Achievement–Based Admissions
  • Interviews, Folios, and Test-Based Admissions
  • Prior Tertiary Education Qualifications-Based Admissions
  • Mature-Age Special Entry Admissions
  • Conclusion: Admissions in the Context of Growth
  • References
  • 36 Best Practices in American Transfer Centers: Helping Students to Achieve Success after Admission
  • Introduction
  • A Context for College Student Transfer
  • The Metropolitan University
  • Institutional Context
  • The Transfer Center
  • Campus Partnerships
  • Enrollment and Articulation Offices
  • Online Orientations
  • Tuition Waivers and Scholarships
  • Implications and Future Considerations
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 37 Secret Ingredients in Successful Baccalaureate Admission: Risk Management of U.S. High-Poverty Urban Students
  • Introduction
  • Intervention in Response to Chronic Disadvantage
  • Essential Admission Ingredients
  • Resource Scarcity
  • Social and Emotional Risk
  • Secret Ingredients and Safety Nets
  • Educational Access within a Meritocracy: Philosophical Concerns
  • Concluding Implications for Admission Policy
  • References
  • 38 Socialization Matters: A Mixed-Methods Study of U.S. College Admissions Counselors
  • Introduction
  • Need for the Study
  • Theoretical Framework
  • The Study
  • Participants
  • Survey
  • Findings
  • Frequency of Peer Relationships
  • Nature of Peer Relationships
  • Quality of Peer Relationships
  • Influence of Work Relationships and Socializing Experiences on Job Satisfaction and Intent to Leave
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 39 Are We Creating Roadblocks or Pathways? Admission Policy in Turkey’s Higher Education Programs
  • Introduction
  • Admission Policy for National Students
  • Recent Trends in the Selection of Students
  • Alternative Centralized Exams and Cumulative Average Success Score
  • University Exam Preparation Centers
  • A New Interdisciplinary University Model
  • Internationalization of Higher Education and International Students
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • 40 To AABe or Not to AABe? A Very English Problem of Postsecondary Access Policy in the UK
  • Introduction
  • Historical and National Context
  • Historic Overview
  • Institutional Stratification
  • Student Body Stratification
  • Policies towards Access, Outreach, Fees, and Funding
  • Marketization: Student Number Control (SNC)
  • Impact of the 2012 Changes
  • International Students
  • Barriers to Expansion
  • Sector Analysis
  • Oxford and Cambridge
  • The Russell Group
  • 1994 Group/Mid-range
  • Post-1992 Group/New Universities
  • Widening Participation
  • From AAB to ABB
  • Reflection and Conclusion
  • References
  • About the Contributors
  • Index

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Preface … and a Call to Action

Virginia Stead

This volume offers perspectives from an international research contingent whose collective experience incorporates multiple research methods and insights into an array of political states and higher education policies. I am very grateful and deeply moved by the research that the authors have shared for dissemination within a principally North American market.

Although the text is disaggregated into four sections, the positioning of most of the chapters is only one solution to how to organize so much new and complex information. It in no way suggests a hierarchy of values, importance, or contribution to the field of higher education admissions policy.

The chapter that started as a vehicle for the dissemination of my doctoral research has grown with adolescent proportions into this book, and the book, in turn, has become Volume 1 in a new Peter Lang Series, Equity in Higher Education Theory, Policy, and Praxis.

E-mail addresses are included in each to encourage readers to engage in conversation with authors whose work creates a personal connection.

The decision to include individual chapter references was taken at a December 2013 celebration in Fernie, B. C., where Robert Stead, Kathleen Stead, Sterling Pearce, Allan Phillips, Caroline Wells, and I used secret ballots to vote on how to publish the citations. I was stuck on whether to include chapter references and/or a bibliography and needed help to understand how to make the book as inclusive as possible for my readership. I am also very grateful to my daughter, Julia Virginia Stead for her unwavering belief in my ability to complete this project.

My enormous gratitude extends to my Peter Lang managing editor, Chris Myers, to my executive editor, Shirley R. Steinberg, and to all of the authors who have invested their trust and expertise in this volume. Your collaboration has been humbling and invaluable in improving the quality of this book.

Finally, my love and appreciation for my spouse, Robert Edward Stead, have grown exponentially with every hour spent on this project. Who knew?

In closing, I invite all readers to commit to immediate action in the struggle to make higher education admission policy an equitable process for would-be candidates everywhere.

P.S. Got an idea about what to do next? Write it here to help you remember.

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National Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy

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Solving the U.S. College Admissions Mismatch Process

The Importance of High School Norms and Values

Justina Judy, Christina Mazuca Ebmeyer and Barbara Schneider


Despite the well-known benefits of obtaining a college degree, rising educational expectations among youth, and a myriad of government and private programs designed to support students in their transition from high school to college, many obstacles remain that prevent students from successfully enrolling in college. In a transition process that begins with the development of aspirations and concludes with completing a degree, one critical step in this complex process is the application itself—often perceived as a gateway through which aspirations and high school preparation meet college requirements and expectations. This gateway can be particularly narrow and difficult to navigate for low-income and minority students. This chapter discusses the barriers these students face throughout the application process and illustrates how colleges and universities can come together to support students to align their educational and occupational ambitions, giving them an opportunity to successfully transition from high school to college.

The Mismatch Process

The demographic composition of the U.S. elementary and secondary education system is changing, with increasing percentages of Hispanic and African Americans now accounting for nearly 40% of students enrolled in public schools (Aud, Hussar, Johnson, Kena, Roth, Manning, et al., 2012). However, postsecondary enrollments do not reflect these demographic changes and large proportions of African Americans and Hispanics are not matriculating to college at the same rate as whites and Asians. African Americans and Hispanics represent only 27% of the students enrolled at degree-granting postsecondary institutions (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010). Several explanations have been given as to why low-income and minority students, although having high postsecondary educational expectations, fail to fulfill them. This gap between expectations and postsecondary attendance has been identified as “unaligned ambitions” (Schneider & Stevenson, 1999). ← 3 | 4 →

Several explanations have been given as to why students have unaligned ambitions, including financial constraints, inadequate preparation, and lack of information regarding the college admission and acceptance process (Schneider & Stevenson; Perna, 2000; McDonough, 1997; College Board, 2007a). While all of these factors play important roles in improving college access, the informational aspects of college admissions policies and procedures, all of which have become increasingly complex, now require a concerted collaboration between high schools and colleges. Unfortunately, the links between high schools and colleges are oftentimes oversimplified and the primary focus is placed on choosing colleges, completing admission forms, and seeking financial aid. For schools and families with considerable economic and social resources this linkage process, although somewhat imprecise, does not seem to produce the same type of barriers and constraints it does for schools serving low-income and minority students. How information regarding college admissions is understood and acted upon in high schools provides a window into how educational inequalities manifest themselves at the post-secondary level, particularly for students from low-income and minority families.

The experiences of students in high school often determine the trajectories of their academic preparation, educational expectations, and career knowledge—all of which are critical for achieving postsecondary success. Without (1) access to role models, (2) completion of advanced coursework in academically rigorous subjects, (3) specific academic guidance matching student interests with long-range academic plans, and (4) awareness of college programs that guide students through the college admission process, students are unlikely to have the requisite information for choosing a college and major in which they can be successful (Schneider, Judy, Mazuca, & Broda, 2014). This situation is substantially more challenging for students from traditionally underrepresented groups. A recent NCES report finds that between 1972 and 2008, the enrollment rates of high school completers from low-income families trailed the rates of those from high-income families by at least 20% (Aud, Hussar, Planty, et al., 2010).

The misalignment between college ambitions and college enrollment raises several questions regarding low-income and minority students’ access to and preparation for college: What strategies can make a difference in college-going rates for low-income and minority students? How can secondary institutions (particularly those in low-income communities) better support low-income and minority students on their path to enrolling and persisting in postsecondary institutions? How can high schools and colleges work more effectively to circumvent the mismatch process? This chapter examines the research on current reforms designed to support students through the college admission process, suggesting how high schools and colleges can work together to improve adolescents’ understanding of the educational requirements for different types of colleges and the various programs that align with their interests, academic preparation, and financial constraints.

Barriers to Admission

Misalignment between ambitions and forming concrete plans, in addition to students’ misconceptions about the college and financial aid process, are often reinforced by school norms and values; this is especially true for schools serving low-income and minority students. Students in these environments often have multiple misperceptions concerning college admissions, for example, the relationship between college admissions test scores and postsecondary acceptance criteria or overestimating the monetary value and likelihood of receiving postsecondary scholarships. The emphasis on broad steps such as taking college admission tests—without adequately preparing for them—or applying for financial aid—without properly informing students of the responsibility and sufficiency of loans and scholarships covering postsecondary expenses—contribute to the misalignment of ambitions.

These are just a few illustrations, but there are others. For example, during the fall of 2010, 85% of postsecondary applications were completed online and although access to broadband online service has increased for low-income households, there is still a significant gap between access to technology across income groups. With limited access to computers and Internet at home, students from low-income ← 4 | 5 → households may rely on access while at school, not only to obtain information about college but also to complete and submit their college applications. However, many high schools serving low-income and minority students often do not have the computer resources and staff to aid students in completing college forms outside of school hours (Schneider, Judy, Mazuca, & Broda).

Problems of Measuring Performance and Preparation

Another barrier for students from low-income backgrounds in the admissions process is the increased reliance on admission test scores. Almost 60% of colleges consider college admissions test scores (e.g., SAT and ACT) important in their acceptance decision, behind grades in college preparation courses and strength of high school curriculum. Thus, it is not surprising that the competition for getting high scores on these exams continues to increase and that the mechanisms for achieving competitive outcomes are disproportionately being allocated among families with resources (Alon, 2009). Students who are minorities or from low-income families have continued to perform lower on the SAT and ACT, on average, compared to their nonminority and higher-income peers (College Board, 2011; ACT, 2011). In 2011, only 4% of African American students and 11% of Hispanic students were expected to meet all four college-readiness benchmarks as measured by the ACT (ACT, 2011).

Although these tests in principle measure achievement, there are a number of preparation activities and strategies being utilized by many students and their parents to achieve a competitive entrance score. Computerized packages, specialized individual tutors, and courses are all part of the college admission process that families with resources engage in to increase the test scores of their children. Most of these test preparation activities are either not available or not being exploited by low-income and minority students, further hindering their opportunities to perform well on the ACT and SAT and ultimately decreasing the competitiveness of their applications.

While admissions tests provide a standardized measure of achievement, academic performance in high school also provides a measure of college preparation. Academic performance, however, is subject to the vagaries of high school course offerings, uneven instructional practices, and inconsistent grading practices. In many schools that enroll a large majority of low-income students, there are limited course offerings in rigorous or advanced placement courses (Kirst & Venezia, 2004). Oftentimes these schools also struggle to retain high-quality mathematics and science teachers, with a revolving door of qualified teachers in and out of schools (Ingersoll, 2001, 2003).

There has also been a concern that course grade inflation at the high school level has increased, making it difficult for colleges to make admission decisions (ACT, 2005). Astin (2003) finds that more than 45% of college freshmen say they graduated with an A average; such averages may be the consequence of pressure by parents and teachers to have a competitive application in the college process. Others suggest that such grade inflation is a consequence of low-performing schools attempting to retain students or to meet internal graduation benchmarks set by the district. Some high schools have extended their grade point system to include extra points for advanced courses. Additionally, it has been suggested that grades neither measure relative performance in a course nor actual acquisition of knowledge.

Another issue focuses on high school credit recovery, which allows students to take online the courses they have failed, with states or districts determining what will be recorded on students’ transcripts, which can be a complete replacement, average, or some other alternative. This creates problems of uniformity and fairness of grades, opportunities for different schools to access online programs, and for older students to take advantage of these options (Center for Public Education, 2012). For a low-income or minority student, this muddled process of evaluating their academic performance in high school only adds to the difficulty of creating a competitive application for the institution the student aspires to attend. The lack of knowledge of how all of these grading processes are used to create a competitive application—the weighting of courses, the credits used for credit recovery, the disincentive students have for not enrolling in advanced courses in high school because of lowering their grades—all add ← 5 | 6 → to problems for low-income students in achieving aligned ambitions as they apply to the colleges of their choice.

More Than Raising High School Students’ Aspirations

Given the increasing demand for a college degree and the increasing competitiveness in the college admission procedure, some students may be at a significant disadvantage in the matriculation process. In an interview with the New York Times, Dan Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, cited improving alignment and preparation of students in high school as a means to decrease the achievement gap (Dubner, 2008). This is consistent with current research on the college ambitions of high school students and the alignment of their level of preparation and future college and career goals—most students desire to go to college, yet lack the knowledge and skills to realize their educational aspirations (Schneider & Stevenson).

A central part of the mismatch process is unaligned ambitions, that is, an inconsistent knowledge base and understanding between educational expectations and career plans, so that students and often their parents are uninformed about the types of academic preparation, credentials, and degrees needed for certain types of jobs. This concept of unaligned ambition is most prevalent among low-income and minority students, although there are students often from upper-class families who also have unaligned ambitions, believing that certain jobs require multiple advanced degrees. Now it may very well be the case that in the future such credentials may increase one’s chances of obtaining a job, especially in a tight labor market. If that transpires, those being left out of the education credential process may find themselves even more behind.

Schneider and Stevenson argue that students who were caught in the ambitions paradox have reduced opportunities for future educational and occupational goal attainment. The paradox is one where they have high expectations but not the informed mechanisms they need to make their ambitions a reality. In schools where parents have had experiences with higher education institutions, college essays, visits, and financial planning, students and their families tend not to look at the high school or postsecondary institutions for information or resources. However, they soon find that even their own experiences are insufficient for the complexity of the college admission process and allocate economic and social resources to increase the chances that their children will be accepted at highly competitive colleges (Alon). In schools serving students whose parents have limited experiences with higher education institutions this situation is exacerbated.

How then can the mismatched process be solved, not only for low-income students but also for all students? It is unreasonable to expect that high school counselors or teachers can fill this knowledge gap on their own. With ratios of more than 400 students to one guidance counselor it is difficult to imagine that counselors can be a reasonable source for assisting students in the college application process. How can they have the time to help all students learn about what courses they need to take in high school to be competitive college applicants; identify which colleges offer the best types of programs consistent with the students’ interests; provide guidance on college test preparation; and acquire the economic resources needed for the type of institutions the students expect to attend? Additionally, the gulf between what low-income, minority, and especially first-generation college-going students need to know compared to more advantaged students is perhaps much wider and more complex than an issue of access to information. (McDonough & Calderon, 2006). Fundamental issues of knowledge, cultural values, and individual preferences enter into the process regardless of a student’s abilities and interests.

Colleges and universities have been somewhat silent partners in this transition. The types of resources often provided are print or online Web-based sites that are complicated, difficult to read and follow, and emphasize an idealized applicant rather than a real analysis of the types of students who are actually admitted. Some colleges send representatives to high schools to encourage students to apply to their institutions. Neither the college representative nor the student has the relevant information ← 6 | 7 → about the student’s chances of being a competitive applicant for the institution, which can intensify the process of forming unaligned ambitions.

If a student happens to be a gifted athlete, this situation is quite different, and high school coaches and college recruiters work hand-in-hand identifying and matching female and male sports stars with the colleges offering the most beneficial financial and academic package. But for the average student, the burden is placed on the individual and his or her family. There are a number of programs that have tried to provide a closer link between colleges and universities, other than offering summer programs for aspiring college applicants. We need to examine these not only for what they do but also how they can be more effectively linked with college and university admissions. Colleges can no longer afford to be silent partners in this process, especially when their silence only perpetuates the formation of unaligned ambitions.

What Can Be Done to Connect Colleges and Universities?

It can be argued that high schools and postsecondary institutions share responsibility in efforts to ease the admissions process, thereby reducing unaligned ambitions, especially for students from low-income families, minorities, and those who are first-generation college students. However, many of the programs designed to reach these populations are not examining whether the specific bridging mechanisms are effective (College Board, 2007b). Where there has been a growing body of research is on the college admission process that targets special programs for underserved populations, often offering reduced tuition for high-performing students. There are two problems with these types of programs: first, at the high school level, identifying such students creates competition, increased stress, and resentment among those not making the cut. Second, some students are often underprepared, not necessarily academically but socially, for the experiences of being at institutions very unlike their high school communities.

The research base for programs that offer automatic admission for select groups of students that meet certain criteria remains somewhat inconclusive. For example, the Top Ten Percent Plan in Texas was designed to improve diversity and expand opportunities for low-income and minority students to attend the flagship universities in the state. Students who graduate in the top 10% of their high school class are granted acceptance at these institutions. Evaluations of this program show that the program has not improved college access for the desired populations and that high school graduates from more affluent schools are still most likely to seek admission to the flagship institutions rather than students from low- and middle-socioeconomic families (Koffman & Tienda, 2008). There are also implications for changing admissions regimes—in the case of the Top Ten Percent Plan, these changes only intensified the reliance on academic performance and grades, and subsequently created steeper barriers to admission for the very populations these policies were designed to help.

Looking exclusively within high schools there are a number of programs that support students in the college admissions process. These programs focus on course selection, mentoring, tutoring, and financial aid application forms. The problem oftentimes is that they are narrowly focused on one aspect of the admission process, tend to be designed and implemented without collaboration with higher education institutions that the students are most likely to attend, are understaffed, and are targeted at specific groups. These interventions, while well intentioned, fail to recognize the norms and values of the students and their interests in pursuing certain types of postsecondary programs. If high schools fail to address students’ ambitions and redirect them to more realistic aspirations, these efforts are unlikely to have sustained effects on college admissions and persistence.

Several federally funded programs have been put into place to encourage college attendance for low-income and minority students that focus primarily on raising expectations. One of the oldest is the TRIO program, best known to include Upward Bound, Talent Search, and student-support services. These federally funded programs provide mentoring, outreach, and support for targeted student ← 7 | 8 → populations in high schools—all of which underscore the importance of attending college. GEAR UP, a similar nationwide program, has been evaluated in some locations. Domina (1999) found little effect of these outreach programs in his evaluation of changes in participants’ educational experiences for GEAR UP and TRIO. However, in the state of Washington, one evaluation showed particular success in improving outcomes for students entering postsecondary education, with as much as 100% of GEAR UP participants identifying themselves as college bound (Washington State GEAR UP, 2011).

Another longstanding federal program is AVID, Advancement via Individual Determination, which is a fifth-through-twelfth-grade initiative to help students become prepared for college success. In California, AVID has also shown success in improving outcomes for students entering postsecondary education, with more than 75% of surveyed AVID graduates attending a four-year college, which is three times higher than the state average (Guthrie & Guthrie, 2000). Other similar programs across the country, some federally or foundation funded, focus on similar activities. These include the Web-based college-readiness curriculum 6 to 16 (Roderick, Coca, & Nagaoka, 2001); the Education Fund’s Citi Postsecondary Success Program, which works to a create a college-going culture in schools; the Career Academy, which combines academic preparation and career development opportunities (Kemple & Snipes, 2000); and the Pathways to College Network, which raises public awareness about college opportunities for low-income students and promotes evidenced-based practices in secondary schools. Several issues limit the effectiveness of these programs; for example, many target specific populations of students (based on achievement or at-risk status).

There may be students at the margins of their criteria that could benefit from these services who may not receive support. But the issue is not just to attend college, it is the process of finding the most reasonable match between a student’s interests, abilities, and their college choice. Within large comprehensive programs, there may be a reduced opportunity to work intensively with students to align their ambitions; that is likely to make a difference in postsecondary persistence, as well as getting them through the admissions process.

Course preparation is another of the key factors in determining college acceptance. For example, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling reported that two of the top factors for college admission decisions in 2011 was student grades in college preparatory courses and the strength of the student’s curriculum (Clinedinst, Hurley, & Hawkins, 2011).

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is one of the few programs that address this factor. Within this program, students complete intensive coursework for two years, concluding with examinations. Other transition programs often lack this emphasis on college preparatory coursework. The value of college preparatory coursework has taken on somewhat a life of its own as states and large school districts are in the process of requiring more rigorous coursework, particularly in subjects such as mathematics and science. One of the problems with this push for more rigorous coursework for all students has been, in some instances, fewer offerings at the very advanced levels. One way schools are dealing with this problem is dual enrollment programs, where students take courses at neighboring colleges while still in high school. The difficulty here is that the emphasis is on gaining credits rather than being part of a comprehensive programmatic plan that matches students’ strengths and interests.

Some programs combine course preparation with financial aid and scholarships in improving options for students in the college admissions process. The ACE (Achieving a College Education) Plus program gives scholarships to high school students that allows them to take college courses while in high school (Fowler, 2007). The EXCEL program provides support targeted mainly for African American and Latino students ages 13–21 to develop educational and career aspirations in addition to scholarships (Bergin, Cooks, & Bergin, 2007). More recently, a number of programs have been implemented that use some type of incentive to encourage students to take more advanced level courses. The Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP) helps students in two ways, (1) by incentivizing ← 8 | 9 → Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which strengthens their high school transcripts, (2) while also earning potential college credit by paying students and teachers for passing scores on AP exams.

Some states have early-commitment programs that award students with financial aid early in high school or middle school as long as students follow certain academic and behavioral guidelines, earn a certain GPA, and stay out of legal trouble (Heller, 2006). To help students improve their grades, and therefore increase the competitiveness of their admissions profile, some states have programs that give money to high school students if they meet GPA and test score requirements (Pallais, 2009). For some students, it is a simple barrier in the admissions process—such as filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—that is the difference in attending college. In a recent randomized experiment, H & R Block provided families with additional information and support in filling out the FAFSA and found that those that received the treatment were more likely to enroll in college than students that did not receive additional support (Bettinger, Long, Oreopoulos, & Sanbonmatsu, 2012). Deming and Dynarski (2009) found that an additional $1,000 of grant aid to low-income students increased college enrollment by four percentage points.

Several programs do reach out to colleges and work with them collaboratively, providing assistance not only in admissions but through the postsecondary experience as well. Inside Track is a program that provides student coaching, support, and development both before and after college matriculation (Bettinger & Baker, 2011). The National Advising Corps places recent college graduates into low-performing schools as advisors to assist students with college admissions, enrollment, and financial aid. For some of the most at-risk student populations, who may have already dropped out of high school or may be enrolled in an alternative high school setting, programs like the Early College High School Initiative target at-risk high school students and prepare them to graduate in four to five years with a high school diploma, and either an associate’s degree or two years of transferrable college credit toward a bachelor’s degree, tuition free (Edmunds, Bernstein, Unlu, Glennie, Willse, Arshavsky, Yamaguchi, & Dallas, 2009). More of these types of programs, which work directly with colleges and bridge high school support with college resources, are sorely needed. This kind of support would directly help students, given the constant changes in course requirements at the high school and postsecondary level, rising costs for admissions, and increased competition to get into college. These college–high school collaborations provide more realistic information on postsecondary requirements, thus reducing factors that contribute to unaligned ambitions.

Filling the Gap in College-University Relationships

One program that is attempting to build a stronger relationship between colleges and universities and high schools is the College Ambition Program (CAP; www.collegeambition.org). Designed around the importance of having students visualize themselves in college, realistically view individual strengths and weaknesses, and develop strategic plans, CAP actively engages colleges and universities in identifying near-age college-honors peers to work in the high schools providing tutorial and college counselling information for students in all grade—providing not just assistance for twelfth graders as they prepare for admission but also support for students throughout the high school to college pipeline, as the admissions process begins well before that final year of high school. Additionally, CAP has actively served as a bridge between high schools and resources available at local universities, such as tax clinics provided by the law school to help parents in understanding and being able to complete forms for financial aid assistance to improve the likelihood of their students attending a postsecondary school.

In the summer of 2012, in a partnership with colleagues studying the “summer melt” of students failing to enroll in postsecondary programs after graduation (Castleman, Arnold, & Wartman, 2012), CAP recruited near-age peer mentors from the university to work with graduating high school seniors to help navigate the summer transition from high school to college. This work will be extended to include the development of mobile phone apps in partnership with several local universities, ← 9 | 10 → which may simplify the matriculation process and increase overall student access to key administrative structures.

CAP has been designed to provide evidence that will help fill the current gap in the literature on how to better guide and support students with limited resources who are on the path to college. To make a meaningful difference for improving postsecondary access requires a comprehensive approach that is research driven and begins well before the college admissions process starts. Although CAP supports all aspects of the college search, application, and selection process, the positive findings of the program thus far offer a unique contribution to both educators and policymakers through the use of empirical data to understand the role of the high school and college in the admission process, beginning with helping students’ visualization of themselves as a college students, strategically planning while in high school, and then supporting the realization of their postsecondary plans (Schneider, Judy, & Mazuca, 2012).


High schools and colleges collaboratively share in the responsibility of helping students to avoid a college mismatch by providing support as students develop their ambitions and form concrete plans for their future. Colleges and universities can support high schools in providing current information to students, parents, guidance counselors and teachers that would help students avoid developing misconceptions about college, the admissions process, or the financial aid process—while high schools are aware of how they can build a college-going culture that reinforces positive and accurate norms and values about college. It is important for high schools to understand that these misperceptions of the college admission process—college admission tests, essays, and scholarships—interfere with students as they make their future educational and occupational decisions.

Although there are a multitude of current reforms that are designed to improve college access, these programs need to consider how to reduce the likelihood of college mismatch. These reforms should consider how high schools and colleges could work together to increase adolescents’ understanding of the educational requirements for different types of colleges and the various programs that align with their interests, career ambitions, academic preparation, and financial constraints. The admissions process is just one step in this complex transition to adulthood for adolescents, and although this step may present itself as a stressful and complicated one, perhaps this only further illustrates the reasons for all stakeholders to come together to help students to avoid a mismatch and have the opportunity to smoothly transition from high school to postsecondary.


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X, 441
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2013 (August)
Diversity process fairness
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 442 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Virginia Stead (Volume editor)

Since earning her Ed.D. in 2012, Virginia Stead has dedicated herself to infusing equity into higher education thinking and leadership. This book launches her Peter Lang series Equity in Higher Education Theory, Policy, and Praxis and reflects her determination to advance equitable higher education policy implementation.


Title: International Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy
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