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"That's a Good Question!" Exploring Motivations for Law and Business School Choice

Debra Schleef
Sociology of Education
Vol. 73, No. 3 (Jul., 2000), pp. 155-174
DOI: 10.2307/2673214
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2673214
Page Count: 20
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"That's a Good Question!" Exploring Motivations for Law and Business School Choice
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Abstract

Students' accounts of their decisions to attend elite professional schools, although typically couched as preferences, actually reflect deep class-related constraints. In a sample of 79 law and business students, the author found that the majority chose their degrees for similar reasons: professional status, intellectual interest, and an upper-middle-class lifestyle. The students' explanations, which were full of uncertainty and default, upset the assumption that students carefully or consciously choose professional careers. Commitment to a particular career was vague, and for some students, the two degrees could have substituted for one another. However, the students were not investing in specific careers as much as in the maintenance of class status through education. Their motivations were shaped and constrained by individual and organizational factors, including college, peers, work history, and market trends. It is significant that parents played a key role, not through direct occupational inheritance but by communicating the importance of professional-managerial education for safeguarding social status.

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