Grantee Research

Aspirations and Decisions to Enroll in Graduate Programs: A Literature Review of Contributing Factors

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



graduate school enrollment, human capital investment theory, educational aspirations


Enrollment in graduate programs has increased dramatically over the years and continues to grow. Deciding to enroll in graduate school or even aspiring to a graduate degree are outcomes of a complex process influenced by an array of factors ranging from demographic characteristics to undergraduate academic and life experiences to financial variables. In this review, we synthesize recent research on aspirations to pursue graduate education and the enrollment decision process. While some contradictions exist in the literature, several factors consistently influence enrollment in graduate education programs. This review calls for additional theoretical work and reveals several directions for future scholarship in this area of inquiry.