Creating a College-going Culture

college succes

Going to college is an important step on the pathway to success for many students. Helping create a culture of college success is one way a college or university can help students as the make the transition from secondary to postsecondary education. Numerous programs and initiatives have been created to directly address this issue of promoting college success. One such program is called “Roads to College.”

Roads to College

“Roads to College” is a university-based program in which administrators and staff at the university work to help high school students make connections to the everyday world of higher education. The program is particularly aimed at underrepresented students. In a recent case study, I explored how “Roads to College” was implemented at one university. I was specifically interested in gaining insight from the administrators and staff who were most closely working to implement the program.

Exploring the Keys to Success

I focused my analysis using Bridging Multiple Worlds (BMW) Theory to examine how this program helped connect the differing cultural worlds of higher education and underrepresented secondary students. BMW Theory is an ecological model of development that focuses on multiple aspects of the student. First, it explores the development of students across worlds – in this case higher education and high school. Additionally, it also explores how social and institutional support structures can be designed as collaborations to help underrepresented students navigate academic pathways toward college and careers. Currently, however, we don’t really have a good idea how institutional implementers view their programs, program design, theory of action, and the roles of program implementers.

In my case study, Participants from the university academic partnership program included two administrators and four staff coordinators delivering services to local high schools. Drawing from exploratory qualitative case study design recommendations, I was able to gain some valuable insight about the “Roads to College” program. I brought together data from various sources, including: audio recordings and transcripts of semi-structured interviews with participants as well as program design and implementation documents. Thematic content analysis was utilized for coding data. While I did identify coding ahead of time, I also allowed for emergent codes to identify and back up conclusions across the various data sources.

Administrator responses tended to focus on implementation goals and challenges. Such topics identified maintaining program funding, staff training and communication about day-to-day progress, student data, and district climate for collaboration. Staff coordinators, meanwhile discussed goals and challenges associated with providing services. These services included tutoring, individualized college counseling, exploration of college majors and potential career paths, and college visits.

Final Thoughts

In-depth analyses revealed the importance of coordinated teamwork between program administrators and staff coordinators. It was also necessary for implementers to be flexible in response to resource availability and policy changes at the university, district, or individual schools. Examples at the university included opportunities to design new activities based on collaboration with other outreach programs, such as MESA. Examples at the schools included introduction of locally developed college outreach initiatives that overlapped with university program services. Findings of this study highlighted the importance of collaborations among K-12 schools and university pre-college programs as identified by the key staff implementing these programs in an effort to provide services to support diverse students’ access to college. With thoughtful implementation of college success programs such as “Roads to College,” universities can help underrepresented students feel more at home in higher education.

About the Author

Jeremy Edwards is a PhD student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California Santa Barbara. His research focuses on how access to outreach programs can help create academic pathways for urban youth in efforts to promote academic growth and self-concept. He can be reached at



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