Skip to content

Bridging the Gap: How Students from Immigrant Families Navigate Philadelphia’s High School Application Process

School choice research tends to focus on parent management of decisions, but this brief recognizes the critical role of students in managing the high school application process, particularly for adolescents from immigrant families whose parents are not familiar with the American educational system, do not speak English, and/or have limited education. School districts do not have records on students’ immigrant or generational status, so immigrant children and children of immigrants can be an ‘invisible’ to schools. Race/ethnicity and English-language-learner (ELL) status are inadequate proxies for immigrant status, but this brief illustrates that students from immigrant families are a group that requires researchers’, policy makers’, and educators’ attention.This brief draws on interviews conducted with 47 eighth grade students and 27 parents during the 2008-09 school year, including 25 students from immigrant families and 16 immigrant parents. It also draws on interviews conducted with 10 counselors in elementary and middle schools about the high school application process.The immigrant students interviewed for this study seemed to fare well in the high school application process, but their continued success requires independence and the support of institutional agents such as counselors and teachers in navigating their education.