The Use of Agents in Applying to the U.S. Higher Education: Experience of Chinese Undergraduate Students

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Zhang, Yi
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Linda S. Hagedorn
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

The purpose of this study is three fold: (1) to enhance understanding about Chinese undergraduate students' experience when applying to U.S. higher education institutions; (2) to examine rationale of Chinese students using, or not using, an agent to assist their application process and to identify differences or similarities between the two groups; and (3) to explore roles that agents play in Chinese undergraduates' application process and to identify to what extent agents assist their college application preparation.

This study adopts two theoretical frameworks. Cubillo, Synchez, and Cerviyo's (2006) theoretical model of international student college choice and Sharma's (1997) agent theory from a perspective of professions are used to explore the experiences of international Chinese students' application experiences to a U.S. higher education institution and the role that education agents play in students application. The frame work of international student college choice (Cubillo, Synchez & Cerviyo, 2006) provides an overview of factors that influence international students' decision regarding education destination. Sharma (1997) extend agent theory that was first evolved in economics as applied to professions. By using the agent theory from a sociological perspective, relationships between international Chinese students and their agents can be better understood.

This study collected both quantitative and qualitative data from two groups: prospective Chinese students in China and international Chinese undergraduate students in U.S. institutions. This study mainly employed a quantitative approach. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to examine demographic characteristics, students' social economic status, and their academic performance. Independent samples t-tests were administered to identify differences and similarities between students who planned to use or used an agent (agent-assisted students) and those who did not plan to use or did not use an agent (non-agent-assisted students). This study also used Chi-square tests to test for any associations between students' characteristics (categorical and dichotomous variables) and their choice of using or not using an agent. Sequential logistic regression analysis was used to determine factors that predict students' choice of using or not using an agent to assist their college application. In addition to quantitative approach, this study included a qualitative component. Semi- structured interviews were conducted to explore concerns that students had towards application and challenges that they encountered during the application process with or without assistance of agents.

The findings of the study can better inform education practitioners about international student experiences of college application, advantages and disadvantages of using an agent, and to what extent they are satisfied with agents' assistance. This study can be beneficial for recruitment officers and administrators, particularly those who work at institutions with large international student population or at institutions that would like to increase international enrollment. This study may also provide insightful knowledge for new policies, standards, and programs that intentionally improve college recruitment in general and practice with agents' assistance. Last, this study contributes to the limited literature on international students' application experience, the use of agents in the college application process, international recruitment practices, and ethical concerns of how agents' assist students' application or institutions' recruitment.

Sat Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2011