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Open AccessArticle

Institutional Expectations and Students’ Responses to the College Application Essay

Lehman College, The City University of New York, Bronx, NY 10468, USA
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(10), 205; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7100205
Received: 27 July 2018 / Revised: 15 October 2018 / Accepted: 16 October 2018 / Published: 20 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Stratification and Inequality in Access to Higher Education)
This paper explores inequality along the path to college through an analysis of college admissions essays and institutional documents that shape admissions expectations in the United States. The research considers how successful applicants from two different universities and students who are the first in their families to go to college compared to those who are not, approach the college essay in relation to the presented institutional expectations. The sample consists of institutional materials from two universities, one a small private university and one a large public institution. Institutional materials also include documents from college preparatory agencies (such as Kaplan and Khan Academy). Thirty-five student essays were collected from the same two universities mentioned above. Through values analysis, a narrative analysis method, I ask how students with less exposure to the culture of college (taken for granted knowledge about college that is passed down from families) perform the college essay genre. Findings show that students with less exposure to the culture of college focus more on challenges and narrate less expression of their “true selves” in their college admissions essays. Findings can help stakeholders create a more equitable college admissions process that more clearly illuminates institutional expectations for students. View Full-Text
Keywords: college application essay; college admission; college access; first-generation students; values analysis college application essay; college admission; college access; first-generation students; values analysis
MDPI and ACS Style

Todorova, R. Institutional Expectations and Students’ Responses to the College Application Essay. Soc. Sci. 2018, 7, 205.

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