Women less likely than men to believe they can get into university

Women are more pessimistic than men about their chances of getting accepted into university, reveals new research by the University of Cologne. The study, conducted by Professor Marita Jacob, in collaboration with Melinda Erdmann and Marcel Helbig, Berlin Social Science Center, investigated why female upper secondary school students may refrain from enrolment into college or university.

They found women are more pessimistic than men about achieving their aspirations of going into higher education, despite the fact they are equally interested in pursuing higher education as their male counterparts – women even express higher aspirations for college enrolment than men.

The researchers say that while factors such as probability of success and perceived cost impact both genders, young women are also affected by formal restrictions limiting entry to their preferred fields of study. For example, there are high entry requirements for medicine, psychology or law and many women often don’t believe they will achieve the correct grades to be accepted.

“The finding that women do not realise their college aspirations is particularly noteworthy, as women on average achieve higher grades than men, giving them a considerable advantage in the competition for scarce study places. The first ‘leak’ in the pipeline for academic careers in Germany therefore occurs even before actual enrolment”.

In order to enable more talented young women to realise their academic ambitions and to counteract the phenomenon of “lost talents”, the researchers particularly advise forming initiatives such as guidance counselling to encourage and support young women and men in pursuing their goals.