Understanding how students manage the transition from an early college high school to a four-year institution of higher education
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In an effort to improve the college completion rates of low-income and minority students, the early college high school model was introduced in 2002. Early college high schools offer students the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree upon high school graduation by providing access to college-bearing courses. This model has resulted in high school graduates entering four-year institutions of higher education as juniors and seniors rather than traditional freshmen. This research presents findings from a case study of students attending a four-year university in Texas. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with university students that had transitioned from an early college high school. This study focuses on understanding the internal and institutional factors that help students manage the transition from an early college high school into a university environment. Findings show that external support systems play a significant role before, during, and after the transition. These findings indicate a need for clear communication between early college high schools, community colleges, universities, and students. Based upon the findings, I present implications for policy and practice and suggestions for future research.