The Role of Academic and Nonacademic Fit Factors in College Match, Search, and Choice

by Michelle Jacobs

Institution: The George Washington University
Year: 2017
Keywords: Higher education
Posted: 02/01/2018
Record ID: 2155148
Full text PDF: http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10264398


This study explored the influence of student-university fit on the matching of academically diverse, under-represented minority students college search and choice processes. To examine the relationship between academic match and student-university fit, a qualitative research design was used. This basic interpretive qualitative design incorporated a screening form, two semi-structured interviews, and document analysis over a nine-month, time-elapsed data collection process. The interview protocols, informed by Hossler and Gallaghers (1987) three-stage model and Pernas (2006) conceptual model, were administered to eight participants involved in a nonprofit college access program. Document analysis was used to gather data from transcripts, test scores, and college profiles to determine students academic match with the schools on their college lists and their final college choice. Vignettes captured each participants story, and the emergent themes described in detail larger ideas across participants resulting from the coding process. At their colleges of choice, five participants academically matched, two undermatched, and one overmatched. The study found that students college choice and academic match results from various student-university fit factors that are fluid and constantly changing. During the college process, students web of resources including parents, guidance counselors, and college mentors provides support, but many students still resort to making decisions independently when they feel overwhelmed. College counseling proves especially important for racial minorities and low-income students. In the past, college match research has focused solely on academic match, but students make their college choice based on a variety of factors, including location, major options, and cost. Together, Pernas and Hossler and Gallaghers conceptual models provided a framework for this study since using either model in isolation would result in a gap in understanding. Namely, Hossler and Gallaghers model does not account for the counseling students receive throughout their process, and Pernas model focuses on the college process as a whole but does not differentiate between the stages. College match research must focus on both academic and social fit to provide an accurate and comprehensive understanding of how students experience their college search and make their college choice.