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ERIC Number: ED558032
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 40
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 53
Who Goes to Graduate School? Tracking 2003 ACT®-Tested High School Graduates for More than a Decade. ACT Research Report Series, 2015 (2)
Mattern, Krista; Radunzel, Justine
ACT, Inc.
Many students who earn a bachelor's degree also aspire to earn a graduate degree. In this study, we examined student and institutional characteristics that are related to graduate school enrollment. Student characteristics included demographic characteristics; high school performance measures, coursework taken, and extracurricular activities; college intentions and educational plans; and undergraduate enrollment and degree measures. Institution-level characteristics included college control, college selectivity, and Historically Black College or University (HBCU) designation. The sample for this study consisted of more than 14,000 ACT-tested students who graduated from high school in 2003, who enrolled in college, and who earned a bachelor's degree within eight years of initial enrollment. Nearly one-half (46%) of the bachelor's degree recipients subsequently enrolled in a graduate program. Graduate enrollment rates varied significantly by student and institutional characteristics. Higher graduate enrollment rates were observed for students who were more academically prepared upon high school graduation (as measured by ACT test scores, high school coursework taken, and grades earned), those who had intentions of taking advanced college coursework and graduate school aspirations, and those who earned a bachelor's degree in four years or less. Females were more likely than males to enroll in a graduate program (50% vs. 40%). Among all racial/ethnic groups, African American students had the highest graduate enrollment rate (55%); likewise, HBCU students had higher graduate enrollment rates than non-HBCU students. Graduate enrollment rates were also found to vary by undergraduate major. For example, business majors had one of the lower graduate enrollment rates (31%), whereas biological and biomedical science majors had one of the higher rates (68%). Controlling for multiple variables simultaneously, study results indicated that gender, race/ethnicity, ACT Composite score, graduate school aspirations, earning a bachelor's degree in a timely manner, and graduating from a HBCU institution were strongly related to graduate school enrollment. Other variables that were positively related to graduate school enrollment, but to a lesser extent, included: taking advanced, accelerated, or honors courses in high school, receiving a leadership award in high school, planning to take an independent study course while in college, intending to receive college credit by exam, and planning not to work while in college. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of sound academic preparation for college so that students are well equipped to achieve their educational goals; many students' goals include earning a post-baccalaureate degree. Enrolling in graduate school has potential benefits to the individual student such as greater self-esteem and long-term earning potential. This is particularly noteworthy in light of our findings that African American students and students attending HBCUs were more likely to enroll in graduate school, holding all else constant. Interventions aimed at promoting post-baccalaureate pursuits for these populations could potentially help reduce the economic disparities that exist by race/ethnicity. Equipping students to achieve such goals also helps the United States build a more highly skilled workforce and preserve the nation's global competitiveness. An appendix contains additional tables.
ACT, Inc. 500 ACT Drive, P.O. Box 168, Iowa City, IA 52243-0168. Tel: 319-337-1270; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Numerical/Quantitative Data
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: ACT, Inc.
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: ACT Assessment