Match Pathways and College Graduation: A Longitudinal and Multidimensional Framework for Academic Mismatch

Dafna Gelbgiser*, Sigal Alon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Academic mismatch, the incompatibility between applicants’/students’ aptitude and their desired/current academic program, is considered a key predictor of degree attainment. Evaluations of this link tend to be cross-sectional, however, focusing on specific stages of the college pipeline and ignoring mismatch at prior or later stages and their potential outcomes. We developed and tested a longitudinal and multidimensional framework that classifies mismatches along the college pipeline by direction (match, overmatch, undermatch) and stage (application, admission, enrollment). We combined them into match pathways and evaluated how these configurations shape graduation outcomes. Analyses of administrative data on all applicants and students at universities in Israel between 1998 and 2003 demonstrate the added value of this framework. We show that academic mismatch is substantially more prevalent and complex than previously depicted, with only a third of all students fully matched at all stages. Mismatch at each stage affects graduation chances, but the effect is also path-dependent. Thus, it is important to study the entire match pathway to understand how academic mismatch shapes inequality in graduation outcomes. Our findings have important implications for policies designed to increase degree attainment and diversity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • ability grouping
  • academic mismatch
  • college graduation
  • higher education
  • quantitative research on education


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