An Examination of High School Graduates Who Identify Teachers as Influential in their Choice of College

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Mozie-Ross, Yvette Denise
Cabrera, Alberto
Fries-Britt, Sharon
This exploratory study contributes to what is known about the college choice process by providing a quantitative comparative analysis to determine how high school graduates who identify teachers as influential in their choice of college differ from graduates who do not. Specifically, this study answers the following research question: How do students who identify teachers as influential in their choice of college differ from those who do not in terms of academic and demographic characteristics and college choice outcomes? Perna's college choice model served as the conceptual framework for this study. The model posits that college choice is ultimately based on students' comparison of the benefits and costs of enrolling. Assessments of the benefits and costs are shaped by four contextual layers: 1) habitus, 2) school and community, 3) higher education and 4) social economic and policy. Data for this exploratory study were drawn from 17,734 high school graduates' responses to the College Board's 2006 Admitted Student Questionnaire (ASQ). Cross-tabulation and descriptive and inferential analyses were used to characterize and compare student respondents who indicated the opinions of high school teachers as "very important" in their choice of college, and those who do not, in terms of the core and contextual college choice variables identified in Perna's conceptual model. Pearson's Chi-square was used to test the independence of the variables while Cramer's V correlation served as a post-estimation test to assess the relative strength of the association of the variables. A z-test analysis was also performed to compare the differences in proportion for the two populations under consideration. The study concluded that high school graduates who identified teachers as influential in their choice of college differed from those who did not in terms of academic background, demographic background and college choice outcomes. Specifically, in terms of academic and demographic background, the study found that high school teachers are most influential among students who are 1) non-White, 2) less competitive academically (i.e. grade average and admissions test scores), and 3) come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. No differences were found in gender and type of high school attended. In terms of college choice outcomes, the study concluded that teachers were most influential among students who 1) attend schools in their home state, 2) attend less competitive institutions (i.e. "masters college and university" or "specialty school" Carnegie Classifications), and 3) attend schools where the perceived emphasis is on quality of students' academic experience, opportunities for involvement outside the classroom and campus aesthetics. No differences were found in institutional control (public versus private). The findings have implications for future research and future practice including institutional marketing and recruitment strategies and teacher preparation programs.