Students' perception of the transition from an early college high school to a university
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Early college high schools (ECHSs) are secondary institutions designed to aid students with the transition from high school to college and reduce the achievement gap for minority, low-income, and first-generation students (Early College High School Initiative, 2008; The Council of State Governments, 2009). Most ECHS research is quantitative and focused on student enrollment, academic success, and matriculation to college. Factors that influence the student transition from high school to college have not been examined (Kaniuka & Vickers, 2010). This study more closely examines gaps in research by exploring how both formal and informal mechanisms of support help ECHS graduates with their adjustment to college life. Utilizing a transition framework, this exploratory study responds to four major research questions: (1) To what degree did the support students receive while enrolled in an ECHS aid in their transition from high school to college? (2) In what ways did students feel prepared or not prepared for their experiences in college? (3) What aspects of the transition did students find most and least challenging? (4) What components of support provided students with an understanding of what they would experience once enrolled in college? A qualitative case study format was used, and participants interviewed were ECHS graduates who recently completed the first year at a four-year institution. Through their interviews, the participants revealed they received a significant amount of academic support that helped them with their transition to a four-year institution, but were lacking in the support and knowledge they needed to negotiate their personal and social transition. The results suggest potential new directions for research focused on the transition from ECHSs to four-year institutions and for the type and quality of support students who participate in accelerated learning experiences like the ECHS receive once they begin their studies at a four-year institution.