Latino college students' decisions regarding academic support services : a case study
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This study focused on Latino undergraduate students majoring in science, and their decisions to access academic support programs. The purposes were to understand (1) factors that influence Latino students' career-related choices; choosing a science major and accessing resources in support of their academic careers; and (2) what role socializers play in those decisions. The informants were four Latino college students who chose science majors when admitted to a research university. Using a case-study interview approach, they were interviewed longitudinally over two years to understand the influences on their decisions. Data codes and themes were generated through interpretive analysis of interview transcripts, and results were evaluated against the Eccles' et al. (1983) expectancy-value model of career choices. Three categories were identified: decisions made prior to matriculation, decisions made in adjusting to the university environment, and continuing decisions to persist in the sciences. First, initial decisions as high school students were made within a web environment, through self-dialogue. Participants relied on web information in a non-interactive way to make decisions on their own. Parents, teachers, and peers merely validated decisions. Second, the process by which these students adjusted in their first year of college revealed differences among the participating students. Unlike the two male computer science majors, two female biology majors had a more difficult time participating in classes, being active about seeking help and contacting socializers, and managing their personal lives. This contrast continued on to their second year. Finally, the study yielded an iterative notion of decision-making about persistence in science. The two female biology majors having a hard time in their classes constantly revisited their initial choice of a science major. They accessed the web to get information necessary to find a solution and relay that to new socializers, such as advisers, mentoring program staff, and peers in college. Drawing from these findings, this study yielded a framework for discussing Latino science students' academic decision making. The importance of the web in initial decisions has digital equity implications, and indicates the importance of Internet outreach. Further, differences in the decision process imply a need for personalized support structures.