Author: Wolniak, Gregory C., & Engberg, Mark E.

Title: Academic Achievement in the First Year of College: Evidence of the Pervasive Effects of the High School Context

University Affiliation: University of Chicago; Loyola University Chicago


Research Question:

1) What are the unique effects of students’ demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, precollege academic performance, capital acquisition, and dimensions of the high school context on first year academic performance in college?

2) Do the effects of the high school context differ by students' demographic or socioeconomic background characteristics?

Published: Yes

Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation: Research in Higher Education

Journal Entry: Vol. 51, No. 5, Pp. 451-467

Year: 2010


  1. Black and Hispanic students were associated with the highest average exposure to school violence.
  2. Attending a high school that had increased exposure to school violence had a significant negative effect on first-year grades.
  3. Blacks attended the lowest quality schools in terms of teaching quality. Hispanics attended the lowest quality schools in terms of school infrastructure.
  4. Whites and Asians attended the highest quality schools.
  5. Students from higher socioeconomic statuses were more likely to attend better schools with higher quality of teaching and lower prevalence of school violence.
  6. Black and Hispanic students were associated with significantly lower first-year grades compared to White students.
  7. Students in the lowest income band were associated with significantly lower grades compared to students in the highest income band.
  8. Quality of high school infrastructure and the quality of the teaching environment had significant effects for students in the highest income bracket, but no effect on the lower income brackets.
  9. The quality of the high school infrastructure and exposure to violence at school—two operationalized dimensions of the high school context—affect first year college grades above and beyond pre-college academic achievement and a variety of other background characteristics.
  10. Results also provide evidence of the conditional nature of these effects, where the high school context reinforces advantages of students with relatively greater economic resources prior to college.

Scholarship Type Journal Article Empirical Research

Keywords: Academic Achievement, College, Context, Demographic Trends, First Year of College, SES

Regions National

Methodologies: Quantitative

Research Designs: Secondary Survey Data

Method of Analysis: Descriptive Statistics, Linear Regression Models

Sampling Frame: Freshmen in College

Sample Types: Nationally Representative

Unit of Analysis: School, Student

Data Types: Quantitative-Longitudinal

Data Description:

Relevance: Links high school composition with college performance.

Entry Created at: 2016-02-28 15:53:58 UTC
Last Update: 2016-07-30 14:43:22 UTC