The UWEP continues to promote higher education for young women

More research from the Utah Women and Education Project, UWEP, indicates extracurricular activities, finances and aspirations are significant influences as to whether or not young women attend and graduate from college.

Results from the study are presented to the public in the form of easy-to-understand research snapshots intended to inform young women and anyone influential in their lives about the benefits of a post-secondary degree and how to ensure young women pursue one.

Information presented in research snapshot No. 7 indicates young women throughout the state are more likely to attend and graduate from college if they participated in extracurricular activities in junior high and high school.

According to the results, six specific activities were linked to those women who attended college longer and/or graduated from college.

The six activities were involvement in a religious organization, participating in volunteer and community service, playing high school sports, belonging to a student club, being a member of an honor society and serving in the student government.

Holding a leadership position in any of the extracurricular activities during high school proved to be the most significant factor for increasing a young woman’s chances to attend and graduate from college, according to the research.

However, nearly half of the study participants had no leadership roles in high school and were shown to be significantly less likely to attend and graduate from college.

UWEP researchers concluded that all young women should have at least one formal leadership position during high school. Adults can take an active role in this effort by providing more leadership roles for young women and encouraging them to seek leadership opportunities.

Snapshot No. 8 reveals three financial issues which influence a young woman’s decision to attend college. Participants’ most important financial activity was to save their own money. The second was discussing financial aid options with someone and the third was having parents who were willing to offer support financially or in other ways. More than half of the study participants, however, did not receive any financial support from their parents.

Nicolle Johnson, UWEP coordinator, suggests parents discuss attending and paying for college with their daughters at a young age.

“Have something, even a piggy bank, to designate to the child that this (money) is for college,” she said.

The ninth research snapshot focuses on the young woman’s college aspirations.

Other studies show females across the nation have higher aspirations for college graduation than males but the UWEP found this is not the case in Utah.

Many in the study indicated they knew higher education was important but results showed it was not a priority in their lives. Those who made the decision early in life to attend college had significantly higher aspirations regarding college.

“If it’s expected of girls at a very early age to go to college, they’re much more likely to prepare, enter and graduate,” Johnson said.

Researchers suggest influential individuals take an active role in increasing college aspirations in young women by simply changing the wording in conversations. Use wording such as “when you go to college…,” and “where would you like to graduate from college?”

UWEP researchers are optimistic about changing the low college attendance and graduation rates among young women in Utah, but insist it’s a shared responsibility between parents, teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, church leaders and family members.

“In the long run, it will take changing the mentality of everyone involved to promote higher education for young women,” Johnson said.

The final three snapshots will be released in early May and can be found at

Six activities that contribute to women staying in college longer and/or graduating from college:

  1. Involvement in a religious organization
  2. Participating in volunteer and community service
  3. Playing school sports
  4. Belonging to a student club
  5. Being a member of an honor society
  6. Serving in the student government.

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