Research Roundup: Easing the Transition to College

Three college students studying together in a library

The transition to college can be both an exciting and challenging time for students. Educators, administrators, and policy leaders often spend valuable time and resources determining how best to ease this transition. 

Browse this list of federally funded studies and resources to explore the impacts of interventions designed to support the transition to college, including early college programs, academic counseling and planning, developmental education reform, and comprehensive student supports.

Early college programs

Early College, Continued Success: Longer-Term Impact of Early College High Schools. This randomized study, conducted by the American Institutes for Research and SRI International, builds on a 2013 report to assess the impacts of early college high school programs over time. Early college enables students to earn up to two years of college credits during high school. The study found that early college students were significantly more likely than control students to enroll in college and earn a college degree within six years of high school graduation.

What Happens When You Combine High School and College? The Impact of the Early College Model on Postsecondary Performance and Completion. This study, conducted by a team at the SERVE Center at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the RAND Corporation, the University of Michigan, and RTI International, examined postsecondary outcomes for students in early college programs in North Carolina. The study, which used a longitudinal experimental design, found that early college students received postsecondary credentials at a higher rate than control students.

Academic counseling and planning

State Strategies to Facilitate Adult Learners’ Transitions to Postsecondary Opportunities. This Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest study analyzed interviews with directors of state and local adult education programs to identify state strategies, such as advising, college preparation, and career pathways, for easing the transition into postsecondary education for adult learners.

Destination Integration: Strategies to Improve Academic Advising. The Education Insights Center conducted an exploratory study that reviewed strategies implemented across several California State University campuses to improve academic advising for students.

Can Re-Enrollment Campaigns Help Dropouts Return to College? Evidence from Florida Community Colleges. This working paper from the University of Florida provides an analysis of a text message-based re-enrollment campaign delivered in partnership with several Florida community colleges.

Developmental education reform

Multiple Measures Placement Using Data Analytics: An Implementation and Early Impacts Report. This randomized study from the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness examines whether using measures beyond placement exam scores can place students more accurately in appropriate courses that meet their academic readiness and needs.

Gaining Ground: Findings from the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways Impact Study. In this randomized study, researchers from the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness analyzed the impact of revised mathematics curricula and pathways developed by the Charles A. Dana Center and implemented across four Texas community colleges, with a focus on a streamlined developmental math sequence.

Corequisite Mathematics Remediation: Results Over Time and in Different Contexts. Following up on a report released in 2016, researchers from the City University of New York used an experimental design to examine the longer term impacts of enrolling students in corequisite mathematics remediation, in which students take college-level courses while receiving additional supports.

Comprehensive student supports

Strategies for Postsecondary Students in Developmental Education: A Practice Guide for College and University Administrators, Advisors, and Faculty. This practice guide from the What Works Clearinghouse details six evidence-based recommendations for institutions looking to support students who are academically underprepared for college-level coursework, including guidance on implementation and troubleshooting.

The Power of Fully Supporting Community College Students: The Effects of the City of University New York's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs After Six YearsMDRC conducted an experimental evaluation analyzing the long-term outcomes of an accelerated degree program that at the time of the study provided dedicated student services, consolidated course schedules, a seminar focused on noncognitive skill building, and financial supports for participants in developmental education courses. Program participants were required to attend college full time.

Becoming College-Ready: Early Findings from a CUNY Start Evaluation. This randomized evaluation, conducted by MDRC and the Community College Research Center, examined whether a program that provided students with access to redesigned developmental courses prior to degree enrollment played a role in program participants’ postsecondary outcomes.