Social Capital and the College Enrollment Process: How Can a School Program Make a Difference?

Apr. 02, 2013

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 115 Number 4, 2013.


College attendance has become a crucial determinant of life chances in U.S. society.
Besides college costs and academic preparation, college-related cultural and social capital may help explain socioeconomic differences in whether and where students attend college.

While high school counselors are seen as potential agents of social capital, the standard counseling model, developed to serve middle-class students, may not translate effectively to schools serving disadvantaged students.

The college coach program, introduced in twelve 12 non-selective Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in the fall of 2004, provides an alternative model.
In contrast to the standard high school counseling model, college coaches take a “community organizer” role in assisting the college enrollment process.


This qualitative study describes how the coach program works and analyzes key aspects that may explain its positive relationship with college enrollment outcomes.

Interviews were conducted between the spring of 2006 and spring of 2007 with nine current and former college coaches, two postsecondary specialists (to whom the coaches report), and 30 high school seniors in two coach schools, which serve students who are predominantly African American or Latino and low-income.


The results suggest that coaches use new advising strategies to increase students’ college-related social capital and subsequently increase the number of students completing college actions, which may explain improved enrollment outcomes.

This research highlights previously tacit assumptions about how counseling should work and details new advising procedures that may benefit disadvantaged students in the college enrollment process.

Updated: Feb. 27, 2013