Chinese high school to American university: The effects and outcomes of international college preparation programs
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This ethnographic study provides insight into the effects and outcomes of the rapidly growing international college preparation programs (CPPs) being operated in China to make students ready for a smoother transition from a Chinese high school to an American university. Specifically, this study not only examines the Chinese students' learning experiences and path to college readiness through CPPs, but also identifies the longer-term outcomes of the programs occurring after they are successfully enrolled.
This study explores Chinese students' learning experiences in specific CPPs to reveal their short-term outcomes, and investigates former CPP students' subsequent transition experiences to American universities to understand CPPs' longer-term outcomes. Aiming at analyzing the efficacies of the CPPs from the perspective of students' learning experience, this study collected qualitative data from two sides: Chinese high school students currently attending CPPs in China and Chinese undergraduate international students in American institutions. Interviews were adopted to explore students' learning experiences. Focus group semi-structured interviews of CPP students on the Chinese side were conducted in six Chinese high schools, while nine individual in-depth and open-ended interviews on the U.S. side were conducted in an American Midwestern Research University.
This study adopts two theoretical frameworks to answer the research questions: Conley's (2010) theoretical model of college readiness and Schlossberg Walters, and Goodman's (1995) Transition Theory. College readiness (Conley, 2007; 2010; Lombardi, Downs, Downs, & Conley, 2012), particularly for international students in CPPs, includes five dimensions: key cognitive strategies, key content knowledge, academic behaviors, contextual skills and awareness (Conley, 2007; 2010; Lombardi, Downs, Downs, & Conley, 2012), and international context and awareness. Additionally, with respect to students' transition experiences, four themes appear in this study: self, situation, support and strategies.
Overall speaking, this study reveals that, as a demonstration of CPPs' outcomes, Chinese undergraduate students in American universities with previous CPP experiences are capable of quickly adapting to academic practices (e.g., presentations, team work assignments and speeches) and expectations in American colleges (e.g., academic writing in English, and speaking skills in English) by being an independent, confident, and collaborative individual. Furthermore, in addition to serving as extra merits in the admission process, in terms of student success, the advanced credits help secure a smoother academic transition. However, despite the merits of CPPs in terms of English proficiency and academic preparation, culture adaptation (e.g., establishing social networks, living in an American way) may not be sufficiently prepared, which may lead to a difficult cultural transition.
Broad implications from this study directly relate to aspects of both practices and policies. With respect to practices, this study proposes implications not only for the Chinese students and their parents, but across American higher education. Various types of American higher education professionals can benefit from this study related to efficacies of CPPs in preparing Chinese students to transition from Chinese high school to American university. They include higher education recruiters, academic advisors, and student affair practitioners. Additionally, CPP program directors can better develop their programs to improve students' learning experiences in CPPs. This study also provides insights for policies, including policies related credit transfer policy, National College Entrance Exams (CEE) policy, and international student admission. Future research is recommended to focus on further understanding the efficacies of CPPs from administrative perspectives or the programs themselves. Moreover, future researchers could follow a number of students from the point when they participate in CPPs in China to the point when they achieve a Baccalaureate degree in American universities.