LINGUISTIC AND CULTURAL FACTORS IN GRADUATE SCHOOL ADMISSIONS: AN EXAMINATION OF LATIN AMERICAN STUDENTS AT PURDUE UNIVERSITY
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While the number of graduate students from different parts of the world in the United States is decreasing, the trend in Latin American populations is the opposite. Nonetheless, the current lack of information regarding the reasons behind this tendency, in terms of English language proficiency and cultural aspects, affects all parts involved: graduate students do not know what type of opportunities they can make use of; American universities do not have enough information to provide Latin American students with a sheltering environment; and Latin American governments are unable to make policies that encourage the application and facilitate admission to graduate school in American universities.
The aim of this study is to establish a starting point for understanding the linguistic and cultural complexities of the Latin American population in graduate school in the United States. To do so, surveys and interviews were carried out to explore academic experiences, cultural influences and socioeconomic patterns that influenced the admission of Latin American students to graduate school. Mixed methods were used to describe the patterns of the survey responses quantitatively while leaving room for confirmatory quantitative analysis using the information of the interviews. The participants of this study were graduate students from Purdue University, one of the American universities with the highest number of Latin American graduate students.
The results of this study underscore the importance of effective English language instruction during college years for reaching the graduate school admission scores, especially in cases when English language training during school was not possible or had little impact on the functional proficiency of the learner. Also, there is a large body of evidence indicating that undergraduate research internships could be one of the opportunities with the highest potential to recruit graduate Latin American students, regardless of their socioeconomic background.