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Discussing higher education choices: differences and difficulties

Brooks, R (2003) Discussing higher education choices: differences and difficulties Research Papers in Education, 18 (3). pp. 237-258.

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Social psychological studies have long emphasized the importance of openness, disclosure and the sharing of plans for the future to young people's friendships. Recently, similar claims have been made within sociology, but applied to friendships and other relationships practised at various points throughout the life-course. From both these perspectives, it would be expected that as young people come to make decisions about their post-18 destinations, their deliberations would be discussed with close friends. Indeed, various large-scale surveys of the factors affecting young people's higher education choices have indicated that friends may play an important role in this process. However, while these have provided a useful measure of the proportion of young people who discussed their choices with their friends, they have been unable to illuminate the content and length of such discussions, the number of friends with whom discussions were held, or the nature of the friendships of the young people in the sample. Using qualitative data drawn from a two-year, longitudinal study with young people between the ages of 16 and 18, this paper illuminates the nature of such conversations with friends and others in the wider peer group. It argues that, contrary to the implications of previous quantitative studies, conversations about higher education courses and institutions were extremely limited. In seeking to explain the reasons for this it will highlight a number of difficulties young people had in talking to their friends about higher education, focusing largely on the significant differences between friends and others in the wider peer group, which were brought into sharp relief by the decision-making process. On the basis of this evidence, it suggests that discussions about higher education were inherently problematic for almost all the young people in the sample, and for this reason were avoided.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Brooks, R
Date : 2003
DOI : 10.1080/0267152032000107310
Uncontrolled Keywords : Education Higher education
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Research Papers in Education, 2003, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 23 Jul 2014 11:41
Last Modified : 23 Jul 2014 13:33

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