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The College Application Gauntlet: A Systematic Analysis of the Steps to Four-Year College Enrollment Open Access

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Few studies have examined the steps to college enrollment between college aspiration and college enrollment and how these steps might present a barrier to four-year college enrollment. This study used data from the Education Longitudinal Study: 2002 and employed a multivariate random effects logistic framework to examine the completion of nine steps to enrollment based on student background characteristics and the completion of prior steps. Racial and family income gaps in step completion can be mostly accounted for by differences in academic preparation. Accounting for social and cultural capital reduced, but did not eliminate, remaining gaps. Finally, completion of early steps strongly predicts completion of later steps, though this momentum appeared much stronger for White students than Black or Hispanic ones. The findings suggest college coaching programs should target students early in their high school careers and work to foster college aspirations and provide information about steps to college enrollment.

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