Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A qualitative investigation of the college choice experiences and reentry expectations of U.S. American third culture kids
by Thurston-Gonzalez, Sara J., Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago, 2009, 218; 3367137
Abstract (Summary)

The focus of this qualitative study is on U.S. third culture kids (TCKs), youth who have grown up abroad because of their parent's work, and their college choice experiences and reentry expectations. Through a background questionnaire and personal interviews with eleven students transitioning from two international secondary schools in a Spanish-speaking Latin American country to a U.S. college, I invite students to tell their stories in order to begin to understand this process. Further, I interview the schools' college counselors, in order to gain more insight.

Previous research on U.S. third culture kids and college choice is quite limited and retrospective. This dissertation offers a new perspective to the topic by exploring this process while the research participants are experiencing the college choice process first hand. Further, this study is the first to explore U.S. third culture kids' expectations of college in their home country.

Findings regarding college choice reveal numerous patterns. Parents were the biggest source of influence on students when considering individual college choice. Other family members and friends also influenced the process. Findings also indicated numerous organizational characteristics that influenced choice including the pre-college international location, pre-college school guidance, access to college recruitment activities, availability of academic major, and familiar location. Findings on expectations and predicted challenges revealed a range of responses. Expectations were for the most part vague, though realistic. Predicting challenges was an easy task for the students. Most recognized adjustment issues to be one of the challenges they would have to face.

Conclusions from this study include: (1) International location influences numerous aspects of the college search process; (2) Strong student ties to the “familiar” play an important role in their college choice process; (3) Adjusting to U.S. culture is an expected challenge; and (4) College orientations are extremely important to third culture kids.

Recommendations for practice are offered to international secondary schools, U.S. colleges, and other invested parties which include third culture kids, sponsoring organizations of families, and EducationUSA offices. Additionally, numerous recommendations are offered for future research to even further expand the scope of literature on third culture kids.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Williams, Terry E.
School: Loyola University Chicago
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: School counseling, Secondary education, Higher education
Keywords: College choice, Cross-cultural reentry, Global nomads, International schools, Reentry, TCK, Third culture, Third culture kids
Publication Number: 3367137
ISBN: 978-1-109-26480-7
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