Advising Students on their Field of Study

Evidence from a French University Reform

Nicolas Pistolesi


This paper measures the effect of a policy implemented in France in 2009 advising students on their field of study at university. Applicants receive reviews from universities on their chances of graduating, which are determined relative to their numerical grades in high-school. To measure the causal impact of the reviews on the choice of their field of study, we compare students with similar high-school numerical grades but different reviews in a regression discontinuity framework. From a database of first year undergraduate applicants, we estimate that receiving a positive signal in a given field of study has little impact on the probability of registration, while receiving a negative signal in a given field decreases the proportion of students enrolling in this field by 14 percentage points.


Access to higher education; Educational choice; Study counseling; Regression discontinuity design;

JEL codes

  • H52: Government Expenditures and Education
  • I23: Higher Education • Research Institutions
  • I28: Government Policy
  • J24: Human Capital • Skills • Occupational Choice • Labor Productivity


Nicolas Pistolesi, Advising Students on their Field of Study: Evidence from a French University Reform, Labour Economics, vol. 44, 2017, pp. 106–121.

Published in

Labour Economics, vol. 44, 2017, pp. 106–121