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Exploring the Influence of Siblings and their Relationships on the College Choice Process Open Access

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The purpose of this study was to explore how students who follow a sibling to college, through chain enrollment, (Perez, 2007; Person & Rosenbaum, 2006) are influenced by their siblings during the college choice process. Hossler and Gallagher's College Choice Model (1987) was the theoretical framework for this qualitative, constructivist study. A series of two semi-structured interviews were utilized to collect data from twelve participants at two research sites. Participants were first-year students who had an older sibling concurrently enrolled at the institution. Data indicated that all aspects of the college choice process, as outlined by Hossler and Gallagher, were influenced by the older sibling. Nine specific research findings were outlined in the study. The findings included: 1) the influence the siblings had on the participant's decision to attend college was that they reinforced predispositions that already existed, 2) choice sets were narrowed by the influence of siblings on the college choice process in that students initially refused to consider their sibling's institution due to fear of rejection and not wanting to attend college with their sibling, 3) choice sets were expanded by the influence of siblings on the college choice process because students began the search phase earlier, 4) increased knowledge about the sibling's institution drew the student to attend that institution over other options, 5) students were drawn to their sibling's institution because they saw the sibling as a comfort source, 6) students with siblings enrolled at their college continued to make their college choice decision after they selected which college to attend, and for some, after they arrived at college, 7) siblings experiences universally encouraged students to attend the college their sibling attended, regardless of whether the experiences were positive or negative, 8) the college choice process led to an increased closeness emotional between siblings, and 9) the college choice process led to a shift in the sibling relationship so that one sibling saw the other in a parental role. Overall, the results of the study indicated that siblings can play a role in the college choice process and further study of this specific influence is warranted.

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