Major choosing among South Asian American women: Toward a new theory of advising
Purpose. Developmental advising theory has traditionally relied on stage-based identity models to consider how college students proceed with academic decisions like major choice. This focus, however, may not effectively serve the increasingly diverse population of students on campus. This grounded theory study sought to examine major choosing for South Asian American women, a group whose gender and cultural background place them outside traditional advising inquiries.
Research Question. What is the process by which South Asian American women choose their college major? (1) What factors influence students' thinking about their major choices? (2) What key figures influence students' choices? (3) What strategies do students employ in making an appropriate choice?
Methodology. This qualitative study utilized individual and focus group interviews and document collection. To survey a continuum of experience, a two-part sample, including fifteen novice students and ten advanced students/graduates, was chosen. Interview transcripts and documents, including electronic journals and admissions essays, were coded inductively using grounded theory procedures. Codes were viewed conceptually and grouped to develop categories, and categorical theorizing at the property/dimensional levels led to identification of a core phenomenon and construction of a visual model. Validity procedures included member checking, use of participants' words, and two non-participant South Asian American peer reviewers.
Findings. This research yielded a process model in which students assessed major fit through consideration of three interwoven elements: social context (second generation biculturalism and family/community influences), suitability (individual characteristics), and access (knowledge and goals). By engaging in actions and with advising resources in the institution, participants gained information that was filtered through the elements to yield coherence in choice. Participants moved through the model multiple times to fully integrate and weigh influential factors. Time and definitions of respectability influenced these considerations.
Significance of study. This research calls for more models of academic decision making that are less hierarchical, more cyclical, and more contextual of the multiple communities and elements that support students. It suggests strategies and formats for advising with South Asian American women and offers broad implications for advising with diverse students, including the need for development and advisor training for multicultural advising competencies.
0519: School counseling
0745: Higher education