Moving up, feeling down : socioemotional distress during the transition to college



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The transition from high school into college is a critical period in the life course, reflecting past history and forecasting future prospects. How this transition unfolds can influence who persists in college and who does not, as it is a time of socioemotional vulnerability as well as a foundation of the highly cumulative path through higher education. The aim of this study was to look at variation in emotional adjustment during the transition from high school into college and how relates to the match/mismatch of academic context and pathways from high school to college as well as parental support. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), latent growth curve and growth mixture modeling were used to estimate trajectories of emotional distress and identify basic categories of trajectories among college goers. Aspects of high school and college context and performance variables—as well as combination among them—were then used to predict the types of trajectories individual college students followed. The results revealed significant heterogeneity in how college-goers fared emotionally, with some experiencing increased depressive symptomatology and others experiences declines. Those who appeared to fare the worst emotionally during the transition to college had consistently low academic demands from high school into college and lacked support social support from their parents.