An Examination of Effective Practices in Helping Low Socioeconomic Students Succeed at Selective Institutions

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Low-SES Students
Selective Institutions
Cultural Capital
Peer Mentoring
Bridge Programs
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Low-socioeconomic status (SES) students attend the nation’s most selective institutions at far lower rates than their high-SES peers, yet they graduate from these institutions at rates significantly higher than low-SES students who attend less-selective institutions. The success of these students at selective institutions is cause for examination into the resources and services available that might be a contributing factor to their success. Selective institutions, owing to their wealth, are in a position to provide access to specialized resources and services vital to the experiences of low-SES students. This paper highlights the results of phone interviews with a sample of selective institutions around the United States in an attempt to identify “effective practices” that likely aid in the retention and graduation of low-SES students on these campuses. While this study predictably confirms that peer initiatives and Bridge Programs are considered effective retention strategies, we learn that selective institutions also offer less common resources for low-SES students. These resources, “boutique” in nature, help bolster not only academic skills but also non-cognitive skills leading to increases in the cultural capital of low-SES students who, despite their challenges, graduate at impressive rates from the most selective institutions in the country.

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Submitted to the Program of Organizational Dynamics, College of Liberal and Professional Studies, in the School of Arts and Sciences in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania. Advisor: Dana Kaminstein
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