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Although there is an abundance of research on middle school counseling, college readiness and belonging, there is a gap in the research regarding middle school students
and attempts to correlate their sense of belonging to college-going beliefs. Research identifies eighth grade as a critical time in a student’s education in which they make
important post-secondary decisions. The research stressed that a student’s academic achievement was not only influenced by intellectual abilities, but by their school climate. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to identify a correlation between school- based factors, specifically a student’s sense of belonging, and college-going beliefs. One hundred eighty-four eighth-grade students from a diverse suburban middle school were
surveyed on their college-going beliefs as well as their sense of belonging. In addition, focus groups were facilitated to further explore how students felt about their school environment and post-secondary planning. The findings showed a significant statistical correlation between students’ sense of school belonging and college-going beliefs. This is significant because it begins to address the void in the research identifying how school
based factors are related to students’ college-going beliefs. Focus group data also enhanced quantitative findings by highlighting how students who described a positive sense of belonging in school had strong intentions and higher confidence for attending college after high school. The results of this research will help educators improve programs, develop stronger relationships with students and strengthen the curriculum to better prepare students for high school and beyond.
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