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NACACNet > Collaboration & Networking > Blogs and Communities > Admitted Blog
November 27
College Experiences Propel Personal and Academic Gains for Hispanics, Study Says

HispanicStudentUSE.jpgLatinos enroll disproportionately in open-access two-year colleges and represent only 8 percent of the student population at selective four-year institutions. 

Consequently, the prevailing research fails to explicitly address the outcomes of Hispanic undergraduates at these schools. 

A 2014 study of Latino students enrolled in highly selective colleges and universities​ attempts to fill that gap. Using data from the 2010 University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey, researchers examined various cognitive, affective, and civic-related outcomes for over 33,000 college juniors and seniors. 

Statistical analyses revealed Hispanic students benefited significantly — both in terms of their personal and academic development — from their college experiences. 

Latino students reported higher levels of satisfaction with out-of-class contact hours, library support, quality of instruction, and advising compared to peers from other ethnic groups. In addition, Hispanic undergraduates made the highest gains in all outcome measures.

What factors best predicted the college outcomes of Latino students?


  • ​A sense of belonging and satisfaction with educational experiences were strongly associated with Hispanic student success. 
  • Socioeconomic status — not a student’s first-generation status — was a significant predictor of college GPA. 
  • Majoring in engineering, computer science, and the physical and biological sciences negatively predicted all outcomes.
While the findings underscore the importance of a college education for Latino students, they also highlight that more work is needed to decrease the achievement gap between Hispanic undergraduates and their white and Asian peers. Although Latino students reported the highest gains in skills during their college career, their mean scores across all outcome measures still lagged behind those of other demographic groups. 

Adopting “culturally relevant policies and practices” rather than retaining Eurocentric perspectives is one way institutions can effectively support their minority students, boosting attainment and student engagement, researchers noted.
Tara Nicola is a research associate at NACAC. She can be reached at
November 25
Study: Contextual Data Key to Eliminating Bias in Admission Process

AdmissionOfficeruse.jpgProviding admission officers with detailed information about students’ school and family backgrounds can significantly improve admission outcomes for low-income applicants, data from a new study suggests.

The finding, published last month by researchers Michael Bastedo and Nicholas Bowman, was derived from research focused on how decision-making biases affect college admission outcomes.  

Over 300 admissions officers from selective US universities participated in the randomized control trial, reviewing simulated admission files containing information about three applicants’ academic preparation, extracurricular involvement, and high school background. Two of the hypothetical students attended upper-middle class high schools; the other was from a disadvantaged background. 

Half of the counselors were provided with limited information about the students’ families and high schools while the other counselors received a more detailed profile. 

Analysis showed that admission counselors who received the detailed background information were over 13 percentage points more likely to admit the low-income applicant. Specifically, the detailed information led the officials to more fairly consider the disadvantaged student whose academic performance was mediocre within the applicant pool but strong within the context of his high school.  

Given this evidence, the researchers noted that “consistent, high-quality data on high school contexts can and should be provided to admissions offices around the country.” 

Because organizations like The College Board, ACT, and The Common Application already collect this information, disseminating the data to college admission offices is a feasible method for ensuring each admission decision is a fair evaluation of students’ abilities and academic potential.

Tara Nicola is a research associate at NACAC. She can be reached at

November 24
College Athletic Programs Woo Recruits with Virtual Reality Tours

virtual realityuse.jpgA growing number of college athletic programs have added a new tool to their recruiting arsenal.

Working with computer programmers, football coaches from at least five NCAA Division I schools have developed virtual reality tours to share with top prospects, according to a recent report from the Associated Press.

“By slipping on a headset, recruits can see what it’s like to be in the team huddle, listen to a coach’s speech, run down the tunnel before a game or tour the campus,” writes John Marshall, who covers football for the AP. “It’s like taking an official visit without ever leaving home.”

College teams already using virtual reality in their recruitment process include Syracuse University (NY); University of Kansas; University of Mississippi, University of California, Los Angeles; and University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Industry experts expect more athletic and admission officials to adopt the technology in the coming years.

New York-based company YouVisit, an exhibitor at past NACAC conferences, offers virtual reality tours of college campuses for prospective and admitted students.

“The virtual reality market is in its infancy, and VR itself is still far from mainstream adoption, but colleges think it might be more attractive than brochures, phone calls and visits,” the Los Angeles Times reported this spring.

New advances mean that virtual reality goggles can be manufactured and distributed for as little as $5 a piece, according to the Times. Students then access the tour through a smartphone app.

Brendan Reilly, CEO of EON Sports VR, said the format allows student-athletes to get a feel for a campus before committing to an official visit.

“When you’re on an on-campus visit, you’re all over the place,” Reilly told the Associated Press. “With virtual reality, kids can take it on their own pace, take in the scenery, have the experience (of) what it will be like on campus or what it’s like on game days.”

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

November 23
Study: College Selectivity Has No Significant Effect on Graduation Rates

graduationsUASE.jpgDoes it matter where you go to college? 

The impact of college choice on student outcomes is well-documented. Countless studies have established a relationship between college type and future earnings, career prospects, and even the size and strength of an individual’s professional network. 

There is also an assumption that college choice also affects academic achievement with students of a given academic ability most likely to graduate if they attend a highly selective institution. However, this assumption has yet to be proven, contradictory hypotheses and findings dominating the relevant scholarly literature. 

A 2014 study on degree completion​ sought more definitive evidence about the effect of college selectivity on graduation rates. The researchers utilized data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative survey following first-time US undergraduates between 1995 and 2001. Through statistical modelling, the research team analyzed whether students’ probability of graduating within six years differed based on the selectivity of their four-year college. 

Surprisingly, the study — published in the American Education Research Journal — found no significant relationship between selectivity and student outcomes. In other words, students from institutions with high acceptance rates weren't less likely to graduate just because they attended a less selective college. 

However, the racial composition of the student body and an institution’s total tuition cost were significantly associated with graduation rates. Specifically, the data indicated:

  • Attending an institution with a higher percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander undergraduates increased—albeit slightly—a student’s likelihood of graduating. By contrast, there was a small graduation disadvantage for students enrolling in a college with a larger Hispanic population.

  • For every $1,000 increase in full-time tuition there was also a small increase in graduation rates, holding constant other individual and institutional-level variables. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is that expensive institutions might have more resources available for promoting college persistence. In addition, students enrolled in these colleges and universities might be more motivated to graduate on account of the significant financial investment they are undertaking.
These findings confirm that selectivity is not a valid measure of institutional quality. Rather, the racial composition of the student body engenders differences in student outcomes. Decreasing the overall admission rate thus does not inherently improve institutional effectiveness. 

Tara Nicola is a research associate at NACAC. She can be reached at

November 20
Parental Expectations That Are Too High Can Harm Students, Researchers Say

ParentalExpectationsUSE.jpgParental expectations that are too high can end up undermining student success in the classroom, according to new research.

The findings, published this week, are derived from a five-year study of more than 3,500 middle and high school students in Germany.

Researchers examined the results of annual math tests given to students. They also asked parents to list the grades they hoped their children would earn, as well as the grades they thought their children could reasonably obtain.

The study showed that while realistic expectations helped kids perform well, unrealistically high expectations harmed student achievement.

“Although parental aspiration is an important vehicle through which children’s academic potential can be realized, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous,” researchers noted.

The team repeated their study using data from US students and parents, and saw the same patterns.

“High parental aspiration led to increased academic achievement, but only when it did not overly exceed realistic expectation,” according to a press release from the American Psychological Association, which published the study. “When aspiration exceeded expectation, the children’s achievement decreased proportionately.”

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

November 19
Facebook Helps Students, Parents Explore Computer Science Careers

computerscienceuse.jpgLooking for ways to get more students interested in computer science or programming?

A new website launched last month by Facebook gives young people an inside look at career options and offers free coding lessons. The resource, dubbed TechPrep, is aimed at underserved students and their families.
In addition to programming exercises for young people ages 8 to 25, the site also includes tips for parents and guardians who want to help their children pursue a career in tech.
Facebook hopes that including moms and dads in the mix will help increase interest in computer science and programming within minority communities. Family plays a big role in determining who goes into computer science, Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity told Fortune.
“When you talk to people [that are programmers now], it’s always that ‘Oh, my dad was this, or my older sister did that,'” she told the magazine.
Content is available in both English and Spanish, and works fully on mobile devices — a boon for many low-income and immigrant families who may not have a PC in the home. Resources can also be downloaded and printed out, allowing students with limited access to computers to master high-tech skills offline.
The site also includes a zip code search, which allows users to locate classes and other programming opportunities in their communities.
Did you know? Starting in next fall, NACAC will offer STEM College and Career Fairs. Aimed at students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, fairs are planned in Houston, New York, and San Francisco.

The computer science profession to grow, and includes many high-paying positions. Yet a recent Facebook poll showed that 77 percent of parents didn’t know how to help their child pursue a career in the field.

“Parents and guardians are influential figures in students’ lives,” Facebook leaders said in a statement. “By exposing people to computer science and programming and guiding them to the resources they need to get started, we hope to reduce some of the barriers that block potential from meeting opportunity.”

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

November 18
Bolstered By Results, IB Expands Outreach to Low-Income Students

IBStudentsUSE.jpgIt’s one of education’s most pressing questions: What can be done to increase the number of low-income students who enroll — and ultimately graduate — from college?

Success in International Baccalaureate coursework has long been recognized by admission officers as one signal of college readiness. A report published earlier this year showed that IB Diploma Programme (DP) students boast a college retention rate of 98 percent, besting the national average by 21 percentage points.

New research has revealed another facet of the program, aimed at students ages 16-19. Data indicates that participation in DP courses is especially effective in boosting postsecondary success among low-income students.

Recent reports show:

The findings are fueling efforts to enroll more low-income students in IB programs, said Marie Vivas, a university relations manager with IB Americas.

Sixty percent of public schools that offer IB courses in the US are Title I schools. The designation denotes that a large proportion of the students served qualify for free or reduced meals — a proxy for poverty. 

“Here in the Americas, we’ve taken the approach that the more students that we can offer IB to the better,” Vivas said. “We are seeing results from our students, so I think there is a sense that we need to increase the number of students that have access.”

Vivas, a NACAC member, took time to speak with Admitted about the latest IB research, the importance of offering rigorous curriculum to all students, and the role counselors and others play in promoting equity.

Q:  Low-income students face many barriers. In addition to rigorous curriculum, what factors within the DP program contribute to postsecondary success for underserved students?

A: DP takes a very holistic approach that goes beyond academic courses. We ask students to develop certain traits; to be risk-takers, to be reflective, to be empathetic, to be knowledgeable, to be open-minded, to be principled. I think that focus provides them with an anchor. They are able to access the resources available at a college, and are able to stick with things that are difficult.

From my years as a counselor and an admissions person, I saw a lot of underrepresented students come in feeling like they couldn’t show weakness, they couldn’t show that they needed help. Even before they arrive on campus they have that "imposter syndrome" going on, which can prevent them from really joining the social mix.

DP students learn to approach education in a different way. They learn how to be a part of a community. They engage in activities.

Q:  What can counselors and others in IB schools do to encourage more low-income students to participate, especially in the DP program?

A: I would love to see IB counselors and coordinators say: All kids that want to do IB — whether they want to take one or two courses, or do the full diploma — are welcome.

Oftentimes in a Title I school you may have 500 or 600 kids to one counselor. IB may be one of many pieces that (a counselor is) dealing with, or maybe the Diploma Coordinator is the person most in charge of counseling IB students.
Our goal is to provide support and information to counselors who are in those situations, because we know from our research that access to IB is a piece that is really helping students.

Q: Research shows that kids — especially those who are among the first in their families to pursue postsecondary education — need support as they transition to college. What role can IB play in that process?

The first part is breaking the myth that IB students are only international school kids that come from these fairly affluent populations.

Part two is reaching out to the staff on (college) campuses who work with first-gen and underrepresented students to make sure our low-income DP kids don’t fall through the cracks once they arrive on campus.

We’re also in the process of deploying a database called the IB Student Registry. All IB students from all over the world are going to have their own profile there … It’s free of charge to students and to schools, but there will be a fee for universities to use the subscription database and recruit students. One hope is that this will become a way that colleges and universities can connect with high-achieving, low-income students.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at
November 17
Study: Students Denounce Financial Aid Process as ‘Arbitrary and Unaccountable’

FinaAidPhotoUSE.jpgStudents do not fully understand financial aid processes and regulations, recent research suggests. 

A qualitative study conducted last year by a team of five higher education researchers examined beliefs and perceptions about financial aid among commuter students who also worked at least part-time. 

Focus groups with 114 undergraduates from three Midwestern institutions revealed that students — even those who received significant aid — held misconceptions about the financial aid process.


  • Students were not aware of how schools awarded aid packages. Many characterized the award process as “arbitrary and unaccountable,” with one student even declaring it was based on luck. 
  • Navigating the FAFSA filing process was a significant source of confusion.
  • Some respondents believed their institutions “deliberately withheld” relevant information on grants and other scholarships. Others reported feeling judged by financial aid officials. ​
Given the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the financial aid process, it is not surprising these students conversely viewed the world of work as a flexible and less stressful environment with clearly defined expectations and processes.

When faced with unexpected life stressors, students in the study turned to low-paying part-time jobs — rather than their institution’s financial aid office — to address their financial struggles.

The report, published in The Review of Higher Education, concludes that confusion about the financial aid process prevented students from making the best use of the resources available to them.


The researchers argue for the development of more outreach programs focusing on aid eligibility and the financial aid application process. 

In addition, they call for reform of the entire financial aid process: a task that would include simplifying the FAFSA as well as revising policies to bolster the success of low-income students.. 

For example, the FAFSA currently assumes parents will contribute toward the cost of their child’s college education. Students who receive limited monetary support from their family are often penalized by this policy, and as a result receive an inadequate amount of aid.

Given the countless barriers to postsecondary education that students face today, ensuring proper financial support structures are in place should be a top priority among our nation’s policy-makers.

Tara Nicola is a research associate at NACAC. She can be reached at
November 16
Study: International Student Enrollment Grows By 10 Percent on US College Campuses

OpenDoorsUSE.jpgThe number of international students enrolled in US colleges and universities climbed 10 percent last year to 974,926, the highest rate of growth in 35 years, says a new report. More than 40 percent of the total enrolled were in undergraduate programs.

China fueled the growth in undergraduate enrollments (124,552, up 12.7 percent from last year's 110,550), for the first time surpassing the numbers of Chinese graduate students pursuing degrees in the United States (120,331, up 4 percent from last year's 115,727), the report says.
But the overall rate of undergraduate growth slowed this year (up 7.6 percent, to 398,824, vs. 9.0 percent last year), and it did not increase as significantly as enrollments in graduate (up 9.8 percent), non-degree (17.8 percent) and Optional Practical Training programs (13.5 percent).
The findings were published in Open Doors, an annual report from the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the US State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is based on enrollments in the 2014-15 academic year.

The data, collected from universities, comport with more current, real-time updates from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which tracks and monitors non-immigrant students and exchange visitors who enter the United States. A quarterly report released in August showed that 1.05 million students were studying in the United States on F-1 and M-1 visas at that time, and 244,766 on J-1 exchange visitor visas.

International students pumped an estimated $30 billion into the U.S. economy last year, a nearly 14 percent increase in dollars contributed to the economy from the previous academic year, says a companion report, also released today, by NAFSA. More than 80 percent of undergraduates pay their own way, the IIE report says.

Among other findings in the Open Doors report:

• Community colleges hosted almost 92,000 international students, up about 4 percent from last year, with undergraduates making up about 70 percent of the total. The rest were in non-degree, vocational and Optional Practical Training programs.

• India was the second-largest country of origin, after China, driven primarily by graduate-level enrollments in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Total enrollments jumped 29.4 percent to 132,888. 

• New York University hosts the most international students, followed by the University of Southern California, Columbia University, Arizona State University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

• California attracted the largest numbers, followed by New York, Texas, Massachusetts, and Illinois. International students were enrolled at institutions  in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

International students "are discovering that there are many regions in the United States where they're welcome," IIE president Allan Goodman said in a briefing last week with reporters. Internationalization has "become much more a part of the way universities and colleges define their mission and strategic plan."

The State Department also this week is introducing its new Study Abroad Office, created to encourage more — and a more diverse array of — US students to study abroad.
Though the numbers of US students going abroad are increasing (up 5.2 percent in this year's report, based on data from 2013-14, to 304,467), they accounted for just 10 percent of US college students, the report says. 

"We're very happy with the numbers this year (but) there is still room for growth," said Marianne Craven, an acting deputy assistant secretary of state who participated in the briefing. Student flows in both directions will help to create "a more peaceful, prosperous and stable world," she said. 

Mary Beth Marklein is an intern with NACAC’s department of international initiatives. You can reach her at
November 13
Study: Curricular Barriers Limit College Access for English Language Learners

ELLgirlUSE.jpgEnglish language learners (ELLs) — now the fastest growing segment of the K-12 student population — are highly underrepresented in the US postsecondary education sector.

In fact, the 2002 Education Longitudinal Study revealed only 19 percent of ELLs attended a four-year institution immediately after graduation compared to 45 percent of their peers for whom English was their native language.
Given the increase in ELL students, that gap is particularly disconcerting.
In order to better understand the barriers to higher education these students face, researchers Yasuko Kanno and Sara Kangas undertook a qualitative case study following eight ELL students in a large, suburban public high school. Because prior work has found that such students often lack sufficient academic preparation for college, the researchers examined ELL access to "high-track" Advanced Placement (AP) and other honors-level courses.
The analysis, published in 2014, showed that almost all the students were confined to sheltered ELL and other "low-track" courses. This was true even of the highest performing English language learners, as well as those who no longer received ELL services.
The reasons behind the disparity?
  • Students predominantly undertook sheltered ELL and non-ELL remedial courses because of rigid course sequencing. Since successful completion of honors-level classes was a prerequisite for entry into AP programs at the school studied, ELLs could not enroll in the most advanced courses.

  • Teachers and counselors feared English language learners could not handle the intense course loads associated with AP classes. In addition, they worried that "high-track" teachers could not provide ELL students with the accommodations they required.

  • ​Students and parents did not challenge the school’s recommendations regarding course selection. In particular, cultural and language barriers prohibited parents from assuming more active roles in their students’ education.
Implication of Findings
ELLs may only constitute a small proportion of a school’s population, but that does not mean their needs should be overlooked. Establishing flexible course sequencing to permit high-achieving English language learners to enter advanced courses is one solution for improving their academic outcomes and college aspirations.
As Kanno and Kangas noted, educators should not assume that ELLs must achieve complete English proficiency before undertaking challenging coursework. If given the opportunity, these students may just exceed everyone’s expectations.
Tara Nicola is a research associate at NACAC. She can be reached at
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