Socius, 2022  


Signaled or suppressed? How gender informs women’s undergraduate applications in biology and engineering

Sonia Giebel, AJ Alvero, Ben Gebre-Medhin and anthony lising antonio

How is gender reflected in college application materials?

Analyzing 60,000 undergraduate applications to the University of California, the authors find that extant gender segregation of academic disciplines also manifests in intended major choice. Gender and SAT Math scores together strongly predict intent to major in biology and engineering, the most popular and gender-segregated majors. Using natural language processing, the authors also find that author gender is more predictive of essay topics written by prospective engineers than prospective biologists. Women intending to major in engineering write about essay topics that signal their gender identity to a greater degree than women intending to major in biology, perhaps to mitigate gender-transgressive academic commitments.

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Poetics, 2022  


Application essays and the ritual production of merit in US selective admissions

Ben Gebre-Medhin, Sonia Giebel, AJ Alvero, anthony lising antonio, Benjamin W. Domingue, and Mitchell L. Stevens

What are college application essays for?

US colleges and universities are defined by their exclusivity, and the most prestigious schools reject most of those who apply. Yet these same schools also widely advertise their inclusiveness, encouraging students from all backgrounds to submit applications and highlighting evaluation protocols that identify many characteristics worthy of consideration for admission. We surface this paradox and use it as motivation to theorize a little studied component of college applications: personal essays.

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American Sociological Review, 2022  


From bat mitzvah to the bar: Religious habitus, self-concept, and women’s educational outcomes

Ilana M. Horwitz, Kaylee T. Matheny, Krystal Laryea, and Landon Schnabel

How religious commitment shapes educational progress across the early life course

This study considers the role of religious habitus and self-concept in educational stratification. The authors follow 3,238 adolescents for 13 years by linking the National Study of Youth and Religion to the National Student Clearinghouse. Survey data reveal that girls with a Jewish upbringing have two distinct postsecondary patterns compared to girls with a non-Jewish upbringing, even after controlling for social origins: (1) they are 23 percentage points more likely to graduate college, and (2) they graduate from much more selective colleges. They also analyze 107 interviews with 33 girls from comparable social origins interviewed repeatedly between adolescence and emerging adulthood to develop fuller portraits of how these patterns unfold.

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Sociology of Education, 2022  


Should I start at MATH 101? Content repetition as an academic strategy in elective curriculums

Monique H. Harrison, A. Philip Hernandez, and Mitchell L. Stevens

How do undergraduates make their first course decisions, and are these decisions fateful?

Drawing on serial interviews (N = 200) of 53 students at an admissions-selective university, we show that incoming students with disparate precollege experiences differ in their orientations toward and strategies for considering first college math courses. Content repeaters opt for courses that repeat material covered in prior coursework, whereas novices opt for courses covering material new to them. Content repeaters receive high grades and report confidence in their math ability, whereas novices in the same classes receive lower grades and report invidious comparisons with classmates.

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2022  


NSF report: An applied science to support working learners

Mitchell L. Stevens, Galeana Drew Alston, Marie Cini, Sean Gallagher, Ilana Horwitz, Cathrael Kazin, Pamela Clouser McCann, Zach Pardos, Elizabeth A. Roumell, Hadass Sheffer, Holly Zanville, Richard Settersten

Concise recommendations from a national peer review

Supported with funds from the National Science Foundation, Stanford University hosted a virtual convening in July 2021 to frame an applied science to support working learners. The goal of this science is to measurably improve educational opportunities and mechanisms of occupational mobility for adult Americans. We forward nine recommendations.

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EdArXiv, 2021  


Forecasting undergraduate majors: A natural language approach

David Lang, Alex Wang, Nathan Dalal, Andreas Paepcke and Mitchell L. Stevens

Predicting college pathways based on early coursework

Elective curriculums require undergraduates to choose from a large roster of courses for enrollment each term. It has proven difficult to characterize this fateful choice process because it remains largely unobserved. Using digital trace data to observe this process at scale at a private research university, together with qualitative student interviews, we provide a novel empirical study of course consideration as an important component of course selection. Clickstream logs from a course exploration platform used by most undergraduates at the case university reveal that students consider on average nine courses for enrollment for their first fall term (<2% of available courses) and these courses predict which academic major students declare two years later. Twenty-nine interviews confirm that students experience consideration as complex and reveal variation in consideration strategies that may influence how consideration unfolds. Consideration presents a promising site for intervention in problems of equity, career funneling, and college completion.

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Stanford Center on Longevity, 2021  


Reimagining education for a new map of life

Ilana M. Horwitz & Mitchell L. Stevens

How should we change education to better serve longer lives?

Horwitz and Stevens synthesize several scholarly literatures to call for investments in early childhood education and flexible alternatives to four-year college degrees. Together these investments enable serial career transitions and meaningful lifelong learning.

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Science Advances, 2021  


Essay content is strongly related to household Income and SAT Scores: Evidence from 60,000 undergraduate applications

AJ Alvero, Sonia Giebel, Ben Gebre-Medhin, anthony lising antonio, Mitchell L. Stevens and Benjamin W. Domingue

College application essays in an era of machine reading

We utilize a corpus of 240,000 admissions essays submitted by 60,000 applicants to the University of California in November 2016 to measure the relationship between the content of application essays, reported household income, and standardized test scores (SAT) at scale. We find that essays have a stronger correlation to reported household income than SAT scores.

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PNAS, 2020  


The confidence gap predicts the gender pay gap among STEM graduates

Adina D. Sterling, Marissa E. Thompson, Shiya Wang, Abisola Kusimo, Shannon Gilmartin, and Sheri Sheppard

How is self-confidence related to the gender wage gap in STEM?

Is there a gender pay gap among graduates in some science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields? Women and men have near-identical human capital at college exit, but cultural beliefs about men as more fit for STEM professions than women may lead to self-beliefs that affect pay. We hypothesized that women and men would be paid differently upon college exit, and that gender gaps in self-beliefs about one’s abilities, or self-efficacy, would correspond to this difference. Using data from a three-wave longitudinal study of graduates of engineering programs from 2015–2017, we find a confidence gap that aligns with a gender pay gap. Overall, these findings point to the role that cultural beliefs play in creating gender disparities among STEM degree-holders.

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Journal of Higher Education, 2021  


Ambiguous credentials: How learners use and make sense of massively open online courses

Krystal Laryea, Kathy Mirzaei, Andreas Paepcke & Mitchell Stevens

What good is a MOOC?

As low-status academic offerings purveyed by high-status institutions, massively open online courses (MOOCs) are ambiguous credentials. In interviews with 60 people who devoted substantial time to at least one MOOC between 2014-2017, we find that people use MOOCs to build skills for application at work and home, build relationships, navigate life transitions, and enhance formal presentations of self.

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