The College Transition Collaborative
The College Transition Collaborative (CTC) brings together pioneering social psychologists, education researchers, and higher education practitioners to create learning environments that produce more equitable higher education outcomes. We believe that all post-secondary students are capable of thriving in college and graduating with the right institutional supports. Our work aims to ensure that all students feel valued, respected, and like they can excel.
Millions of students begin college each year but ultimately do not graduate.
The College Transition Collaborative wants to change this.
CTC partners with colleges and universities to develop scientifically proven approaches that place the student experience at the center of institutional programs and practices. Although almost every student struggles sometimes in college, students who have been targeted by negative stereotypes throughout their life may experience challenges—such as a low grade on an exam or difficulty making friends—as yet another sign they do not belong or can't succeed. As a result, they may withdraw academically and socially. Our work helps schools better understand how their students experience moments of transition or difficulty, and how psychologically-informed practices can convey to all students they are valued, respected, and can excel.
CTC’s work has helped support greater engagement, achievement, and completion for students at diverse colleges and universities across the United States.
We select areas of research based on school and student needs, ground our work in scientific theory, and rigorously assess everything we create across diverse contexts.
We partner with researchers, administrators, educators, and practitioners across the higher education community to ensure the greatest potential for positive student impact.
We create evidence-based, cost-effective, and user-friendly tools and resources supporting practitioners to implement more psychologically attuned practices across the college journey.
Scientists have demonstrated that well-designed learning environments can have lasting effects on how students make meaning of events and respond to difficulties (see call out box). When students feel like their school believes in them and provides a clear path to success, they are more likely to participate in class, attend office hours, join student groups, seek mentors, and make use of resources provided by their institution that may otherwise be underutilized.
Colleges have a powerful opportunity to support student achievement by ensuring that the messages, policies, programs, and practices students encounter throughout their college journey are informed by an understanding of how students make meaning of their experiences – i.e., students’ “psychological experience” of college. Learning environments attuned to students’ experiences, beliefs, and concerns can help students make sense of challenges and transitions in ways that bolster academic performance and foster well-being. This is especially critical for students who have been targeted by negative stereotypes throughout their life, and may reasonably experience challenges–such as a low grade on an exam, difficulty registering for courses, difficulty making friends, or being placed on academic probation–as yet another sign that they do not belong or can’t succeed.
Examples of Opportunities to Support Students' Psychological Experience Throughout College
Do admissions messages convey to students that diverse students are valued on campus and that students can grow to belong in the college community and succeed?
Transition Into College
Do welcome messages communicate that diverse kinds of students belong? Do messages around placement tests lead students to feel like they can succeed?
How do gateway courses impact students' feelings of belonging or academic potential?
How can schools help to foster positive intergroup relationships? How can schools foster the development of more diverse social networks?
Points of Difficulty
Do communications about remedial coursework lead students to feel "dumb"? Do communications about academic setbacks communicate that faculty and the college care about their success and believe they can improve? Do communications about discipline infractions lead students feel like they don’t belong in college or can’t succeed?
Transition Out of College
Do messages from career centers help students identify normal challenges in navigating the job market post college and finding a career path? Do messages about financial aid in and after college communicate warmth and support to low-income students?
Even with identical high school credentials, students from under-represented backgrounds drop out of college at higher rates and earn worse grades than their peers. Research suggests that this disparity is partly attributable to students' concerns about fitting in at college. Importantly, research also suggests that brief, targeted efforts can mitigate these concerns. The CTC is conducting ongoing research to understand how effective such efforts can be for different student groups in varied academic settings. In our current multi-site field trial, we are working with administrators and students at 23 institutions to customize an intervention designed to cultivate a sense of social belonging and test it with over 40,000 first-year students.
Selected Results from Recent Trials:
Outcomes for Students of Color and First-Generation Students
- +4 percentage points in first-year, full-time enrollment for students at a large, public university
- +.09 in cumulative first-year GPA for students at a selective private university
Large Public University
Selective Private University
Almost all colleges and universities have processes to identify and support students who are struggling and at risk of dropping out. While probation is meant to help students get back on track, little research exists on how students experience probation and how effective different approaches are. Early findings suggest that many students on probation do not return to good standing or go on to receive their degree. In addition to conducting a descriptive study of probation practices across the country, the CTC is currently working with six school partners and over 10,000 students to learn more about student perspectives and evaluate how targeted revisions to the probation process can improve student outcomes.
Preliminary Results from Current Study:
Impact of Revisions to Probation Notification Letter
- Decrease in feelings of shame, stigma, embarassment, and guilt across multiple schools
- Decrease in likelihood to consider dropping out or skip class across multiple schools
Are you interested in using the social-belonging materials at your school?
CTC is partnering with the Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS) to make a standardized version of our social-belonging materials available for schools on a free, easy-to-use, online platform beginning in Summer 2017. To learn more, please visit the link below or contact us.
In the News
The Seattle Times
Insights by Stanford Business
David L. Kirp
The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal
Tara Garcia Mathewson
Stanford Graduate School of Education
Yeager et al.
CTC Press Release
Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
New York Times
Greg Walton, Associate Professor, Stanford University
Mary Murphy, Associate Professor, Indiana University
David Yeager, Assistant Professor, UT Austin
Christine Logel, Associate Professor, Renison College
Rob Urstein, Managing Director, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Ali Blodorn, CTC Director of Research
Alice Li, CTC Director of Operations
Amy Henderson, CTC Implementation Manager
Jen Coakley, CTC Research Coordinator
Kaitlin Mathias, CTC Research Coordinator
Krysti Ryan, CTC Implementation Manager
Manuel Galvan, CTC Research Coordinator
Mary Nowak, CTC Operations Coordinator
Peter Fisher, CTC Research Coordinator
Ryan Welch, CTC Director of Analytics
Chris Hulleman, Research Associate Professor, University of Virginia
Christopher Lok, Graduate Student, University of Waterloo
Dustin Thoman, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University
Elise Ozier, Graduate Student, Indiana University
Eric Smith, Graduate Student, Stanford University
Evelyn Carter, Research Scientist, BruinX at UCLA
Joel Le Forestier, Lab Manager, Washington University in St. Louis
Gregg Muragishi, Graduate Student, Stanford University
Heidi Williams, Graduate Student, Indiana University
Katie Boucher, Assistant Professor, University of Indianapolis
Katie Kroeper, Graduate Student, Indiana University
Lisel Murdock-Perriera, Graduate Student, Stanford University
Madison Gilbertson, Graduate Student, Fuller Theological Seminary
Maithreyi Gopalan, Graduate Student, Indiana University
Melanie Netter, Graduate Student, University of Texas at Austin
Nick Bowman, Professor, The University of Iowa
Omid Fotuhi, Research Associate, University of Pittsburgh
Shahana Ansari, Graduate Student, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Shannon Brady, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University
Stephanie Reeves, Graduate Student, Ohio State University
Susie Chen , Graduate Student, University of Pittsburgh
Tsotso Ablorh, Graduate Student, University of Massachussetts – Boston
Carol Dweck, Professor, Stanford University
Geoff Cohen, Professor, Stanford University
Hazel Markus, Professor, Stanford University
Judy Harackiewicz, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Steven Spencer, Professor, University of Waterloo
Dave Paunesku, Executive Director, Stanford University PERTS
Current and Former School Partners
One of the things that’s really difficult when you’re on the ground in an institution is to do this work and know it’s working. To know what we’re doing has solid research behind it is priceless.- CTC Partner
CTC is looking for a new Executive Director (ED), who will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for CTC’s team, programs, expansion, and execution of its mission. The ED will lead a strong and dynamic team with research, implementation, analytics, communications, and operational expertise. The ideal candidate is a high integrity leader with a passion for improving equity, and is energized by the prospect of leading and growing an early-stage organization to create real social change.
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