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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Welcome to the Making a Decision About College Interactive Case!
The Making a Decision About College Interactive Case focuses on the transition to college, an exciting but often worrisome time for high school students and their families. This period can be especially challenging for immigrant, ethnically diverse, and low-income families, who, compared to their peers, face additional economic, academic, and cultural obstacles to going away to college. First-generation immigrant parents are often at an even greater disadvantage, as they might not know what questions to ask or lack access to resources and information they need to support their children. High school seniors who are considering leaving home for the first time often face a multitude of emotions, including excitement and uncertainty. These feelings can be exacerbated for students who play an integral role in family life and fear that leaving home could be harmful to their families. Unfortunately, the key stakeholders who influence the student’s decision are often overworked, conflicted, or swayed by their own interests or experiences. How can families, educators, communities, and institutions of postsecondary education work together to help make decisions about and transitions to postsecondary education as smooth as possible? 

What you will learn
The purpose of this case is to give educators an opportunity to consider the weight of the decision to go away to college, the complex relationships that influence that decision, and ways to engage families in the process. You will learn:

  • What it means for many Latino high-school seniors to decide to go away to college;
  • How different stakeholders, including parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and college admissions officers, can share responsibility for guiding students to make this important decision; 
  • The complexity of the decision to go away, and how confusing it can be for students to interpret mixed levels of support; and
  • How data and larger educational contexts can help you understand the complexity of the college decision.

On the pages that follow, you will be introduced to the five people in the case. After you read each person’s narrative, you will have a chance to reflect on her strengths and concerns. You can type your reflections right into the space provided on the webpage. A pop-up box will appear with some ideas you might have written about. You can then move on to reading about the next person in the case and reflect on that person’s ideas. Along the way, you will be provided with some supplementary data to consider. When you have completed reading all of the perspectives, you will have a chance to take a step back and think about the bigger issues presented in the case.

Let's get started! Marisela, high school senior
Marisela's mother Biology teacher Guidance Counselor Supporting data University
Piecing it all together

Explore our Family Engagement Teaching Case series and find out more about our interactive cases. The original full-length version of this case, Making a Decision About College: Should I Stay or Should I Go? is available on our website and is featured in the book Preparing Educators to Engage Families: Case Studies Using an Ecological Systems Framework, 3rd edition, available for purchase from Sage Publications.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project