College Information Networks: A Social Network Analysis of Where Students Apply to College
Daniel Klasik

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



The George Washington University

Primary Discipline

Higher Education
An increasing number of policy efforts aim to help students make better decisions about whether and where to attend college. As innovative as some of these policies are, they are limited in that they either target a relatively small population of students or are relatively unsophisticated in their ability to guide student choices. Under the best circumstances, college counselors can help students balance regional concerns and preferences. But it is becoming clear that not all students receive the information they need about choosing colleges, making it all the more critical that those who try to remedy this gap can do it in a way that authentically represents the interests of college-seeking students. While we understand some of the basic preferences of students, we ultimately do not understand very well how students pick the colleges to which they apply.In this study, I conduct a social network analysis using college application data from a nationally representative sample of high school students to understand student college preferences better. In this network, connections are created between every pair of colleges to which a student applies. When these connections are aggregated for all students in the sample, the resulting network reveals clusters of specific colleges that students apply to in common which, in turn, allows for the careful analysis of the characteristics that describe those clusters.With a recognition that students care strongly about geography in their college choices, and that their choices may vary depending on whether they have sought the advice of a college counselor, I will answer three questions: (1) What does the national pattern of application submission look like? (2) How does this pattern differ regionally? And (3) do students who visit their college counselor have systematically different patterns of application than those who do not? The results of this novel approach provide a much clarified picture of American colleges from a student perspective, providing the basis for further development of college choice theories and targeted college advising for students without access to quality college counseling.
About Daniel Klasik
Daniel Klasik is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education Administration at The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Dr. Klasik’s research uses a wide variety of quantitative methods to study student pathways into and through postsecondary education and how policy can work to improve college enrollment opportunities for students. His ongoing research interests span how students make decisions about whether and where to attend college; how students’ college decision-making process shapes later college and life outcomes; and the effect of affirmative action and other admissions policies on campus diversity. Dr. Klasik earned his Ph.D. in Education Policy and M.A. in Economics from Stanford University. He completed postdoctoral work with the Maryland Equity Project at the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Prior to completing his graduate work, Dr. Klasik worked as an admissions officer at Vassar College and at the Education Policy Center of the Urban Institute.

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