Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Christie Parris
Greggor Mattson


Race, Education, Self-esteem, Self-concept, Access to higher education, Tracking, Advanced courses, Competing identifies


This paper contributes to existing research on race, educational experiences, access to higher education, and self-esteem. Through fifteen in-depth interviews with Oberlin students of color, I investigate the impact of tracking in high school experiences as it relates to self-esteem and identity. Additionally, I examine how these experiences, along with educational support, affect access to higher education. Three major findings emerge. First, during late elementary school/early middle school, students are assessed, grouped by presumed abilities, and placed in specific, racialized educational tracks. My participants described a train analogy in which the advanced track train leaves the station in early middle school. Once departed, there are minimal opportunities to change tracks, creating barriers to advanced high school classes, further disadvantaging students of color regarding access to higher education. Second, competing identities emerge, particularly among Black and biracial students tracked into advanced courses. An educational identity—in which students strive for academic excellence—emerges alongside a social identity rooted in cultural dissonance, isolation, and alienation during interactions with Black peers/community members with limited access to higher education. These dueling identities affect self-concept and self-esteem negatively. Third, high school type (i.e., public or private) impacts students’ access to resources ranging from preparatory skills to individualized guidance counselor support. Elite colleges tend to recruit from predominantly white private high schools, thus perpetuating racialized gatekeeping practices and further disadvantaging students of color.

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Sociology Commons