Document Type


Publication Date

August 2011

Publication Title

American Sociological Association, 106th Annual Meeting


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Sociology | Higher Education | Inequality and Stratification | Other Education | Sociology


The most trusted mechanism of upward social mobility is education. One of the surest paths to success is an elite education. Studying class at an elite university is important because of our dependence on this site as a justification of social stratification. Are elite universities truly meritocratic? Based on non-participant observation and in-depth interviews with forty-three students at a highly selective, private university, this article addresses how class, race and gender matter for academic adjustment to an elite university. This research employs non-cognitive assessors to show how class, race and gender matter for academic adjustment at an elite university. Policy implications of this work suggest that normative policy makers should not only be paying attention to the experiences of lower-income and minority students, but should also beware of the disadvantages unique to middle-income and female students at the university level.