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The experiences of high school juniors and parents as they engage in the college search process

Stephen C Allen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of high school juniors and parents as they engage in the college search process. A comprehensive understanding of the needs of prospective college students and families encourages institutions, guidance counselors, and public educational preparedness organizations to impart assistance and service to potential students by providing helpful and relevant information through publications, web-sites, presentations, personal interactions, and electronic communication. ^ This study employed a qualitative focus group method to ensure that the data emerging from the research would be described from the perspectives of the participants. Focus group interviews were conducted in November 2003—three focus groups with six prospective students at each site and three focus groups with the parents of prospective students. Focus group interviews were conducted at three locations throughout a western state that were selected because of their diversity both in geographic location and population. ^ From the transcripts, the researcher coded the data. Three primary themes emerged from the data: (A) preparation for college, (B) selection process, and (C) expectations of college. Subthemes and categories provided support for the main themes. The first theme portrayed the various aspects of preparing for college. Students and parents discussed future plans, college preparation in high school, college entrance exams, pressure to do well in high school, and needs in regards to the college search and selection process. ^ The second theme described factors considered by participants when selecting a college. Participants discussed the cost of college, academics, institutional qualities, communication and marketing, and college selection activities they engaged in. ^ The third theme expressed the expectations that students and parents had of college. Students and parents talked about freedom in college, college life, careers, and the personal growth that is gained in college. ^ The study found that experiences differed a great deal between rural and larger communities. Recommendations are made to specific audiences including, high school juniors, parents, high school guidance counselors, schools of higher education, and college preparedness organizations. ^

Subject Area

Education, Secondary|Education, Social Sciences|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Allen, Stephen C, "The experiences of high school juniors and parents as they engage in the college search process" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3147131.