Systematic Reviews of Research: Postsecondary Transitions - Identifying Effective Models and Practices

Project Overview

Principal Investigators

Jeffrey C. Valentine
Associate Professor
University of Louisville
Amy S. Hirschy
Assistant Professor
Educational and Counseling Psychology
University of Louisville
Christine D. Bremer
Research Associate
Institute on Community Integration
University of Minnesota
Marisa Castellano
Principal Investigator

The majority of positions that pay wages or salaries high enough to support a family—almost two-thirds of all jobs—require skills associated with at least some education beyond high school. In fact, although high school grades and behaviors are associated with long-term employment and earnings outcomes, high school records (i.e., grades, attendance, test scores) have little relationship to employment or earnings immediately after high school. Employers place little stock in such records; further, recent high school graduates are rarely hired for demanding jobs. Many students enroll in postsecondary education in an attempt to improve their employment prospects.

Yet mere enrollment is insufficient. When postsecondary education totals less than a year, earnings increases are negligible. Understanding the educational transitions that students must navigate into and through postsecondary education is therefore critical to preventing dropout and improving opportunities for all students and for disadvantaged students in particular. Disadvantaged students may not be adequately prepared for the academic requirements of college; have difficulty balancing employment, family, and education; believe that they are unsuited for college; or find it difficult to find social support in college. Transition programs help students succeed in the face of such challenges and attain their educational goals.

This systematic review of the literature on transition programs for youth to postsecondary education sought to identify models or programs of transition, establish a definition of successful transition, discover how models or programs are evaluated, and examine the impact of such transition programs, specifically those that aim to facilitate transition from an educational system to another educational system, to program completion, or to specific career-related employment for disadvantaged youth.

Researchers identified 16 different general paths that transition programs could potentially address and targeted nine for the review. A literature search of over 8,000 citations yielded over 100 studies warranting further examination. From these, 19 studies that used comparison group designs were analyzed. These 19 studies suggested small but potentially important effects on short-term grades earned by program participants.