Reference Resources iconReview Protocols

Enrolling in postsecondary education and completing a degree or certificate is one of the primary pathways for economic success and is increasingly required for employment in a variety of fields. Yet, large numbers of qualified students fail to apply to and enroll in college (e.g., Avery, 2013; Hoxby & Avery, 2012). Although the percentage of students enrolling in higher education has steadily increased in United States in the past several decades, disparities in college access by race/ethnicity, family income, and gender have increased over the same period (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011). Barriers to college access include a lack of financial resources; academic readiness, familial support, and information resources (Page & Scott-Clayton, 2016; Castleman, Owen, & Page, 2015). Even after students are accepted to college, they may not matriculate due to unanticipated financial, informational, and socioemotional barriers that prevent college entry (Castleman & Page, 2014).

A number of programs and practices are available for the secondary school levels that aim to improve college readiness and access and support the transition to college. Interventions relevant to this topic area are diverse in the sense that they can involve a variety of programmatic strategies and target students of different ages and with different demographic and academic characteristics.

WWC reviews in this topic area focus on interventions for secondary and postsecondary students that aim to support college access and enrollment, as well as academic achievement, school completion, and ultimately, success in the labor market. Systematic reviews of evidence in this topic area address the following research questions:

  • Which interventions are effective at helping students improve access and enrollment in college?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students increase credit accumulation and persistence in college?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students improve academic achievement?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students complete college?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students improve their prospects in the labor market?
  • Which interventions are effective at helping students improve college readiness, including academic performance, attendance, persistence, and taking the necessary steps to apply to college?
  • Are reviewed interventions more or less effective for certain subgroups of students (including first-generation college students, women, racial/ethnic minorities, academically underprepared students, students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds [e.g., Pell Grant recipients], and/or community college students)?

Protocol Details

  • Version: 4.0
  • Released: August 2019
  • Version: 3.2
  • Released: June 2016
  • Version: 3.1
  • Released: November 2015

What is a Protocol?

A review protocol defines the scope of a systematic review. Developed with substantive experts, the protocol defines the parameters for the review, including the research, populations, settings, and outcomes. The protocol also specifies details of the literature search and any topic-specific applications of the design standards.

Protocol versions reflect the version of WWC standards in effect when the protocol was released. Protocol versions that predate the current version of the WWC standards handbook can be used to identify acceptable outcome domains for review within a given topic. The current WWC standards are used to guide the review of studies with acceptable outcomes.

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