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Moller, Stephanie; Stearns, Elizabeth; Potochnick, Stephanie R.; & Southworth, Stephanie S. (2011). Student Achievement and College Selectivity: How Changes in Achievement during High School Affect the Selectivity of College Attended. Youth and Society, 43(2), 656-680.


Researchers who examine the link between high school achievement and educational outcomes include measures of achievement that conflate high school effects with achievement effects established prior to high school. Using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study, this article disaggregates achievement into achievement prior to high school (in the eighth grade) and changes in achievement during high school. The authors find that the prestige of the colleges that students attend is largely solidified by the time students enter high school. They also find that among high socioeconomic status (SES) students, lower achievers can enhance the prestige of the colleges they will attend by moving up the achievement distribution during high school. However, even if their gains are well above average, the prestige of the colleges they are predicted to attend will not surpass students who enter high school at the top or middle of the eighth-grade achievement distribution. These findings are similar for low-SES students. In contrast, the effects of achievement for middle-SES students are largely solidified by high school.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Youth and Society


Moller, Stephanie
Stearns, Elizabeth
Potochnick, Stephanie R.
Southworth, Stephanie S.