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Expectations of Others for College

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When a student graduates from high school that student must then make a decision to continue schooling, take a job or pursue other opportunities.  For a person who is only 18 years old, this may be a difficult decision and that student may look to others for encouragement as to what they should do after mandatory schooling is complete.  A student may have many people they can turn to for advice.  Does it matter how many people are expecting the student to attend college? 

The Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) asked participants in 12th grade if their mother, father, teachers and friends expected them to attend college after high school graduation (see Figure 1).  The participants’ mothers were most likely to expect their sons and daughters to attend college.

Figure 1: Percentage of Influential People who expect the participant to attend college after high school.

The students may hear conflicting messages from parent-to-parent, or a different message in school than at home. How do the differentiating expectations affect the students' actual enrollment in a college or university? Participants were asked within several years following high school graduation, between 1990 and 1994, if they were enrolled in college. When comparing those results with the number of influential people in Figure 1 who expected them to attend college, it became clear that the number of people who expected college attendance had a definite relation to who actually attended college (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The number of influential people who expected college attendance by the education one received, 1990-1994.

Participants who had all four influential people, their mother, father, teacher and friends, expect them to attend college after high school were by far the most likely to attend college following high school. When at least two of the influential people expected college attendance, the chances of college attendance increased drastically from when just one person expected college. Unfortunately, in terms of college attendance, there is very little difference between one person expecting college and no one expecting college for the participant. What this means is that there is strength in numbers. One person may not make a lot of difference, but as the number of people expecting college for another increases, the likelihood of college attendance increases as well.

For LSAY participants, who may already, or may soon have children in high school, they should be advised that the more people who expect their children to attend college; the more likely they will be to attend college. A parent may talk to their child's teachers, have a common college-oriented message in the home, and encourage their child's friendships through social and peer groups, which may influence the students in a college direction. The more people a student can find to encourage college attendance, the more likely he or she will be to attend college.

Prepared by Amanda Misko