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The impact of culture and ethnic identity on college adjustment in students from Hawaii and the mainland attending a university in the Pacific Northwest: a qualitative study

10 July 2000


The past four to five decades have seen a dramatic expansion in the racial and ethnic diversity in the United States. The population of Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs) is presently growing faster than any other ethnic group in the U.S. This increase in diversity brings with it numerous facets which require the close attention of a wide array of professionals, including college educators and staff. The purpose of this study was to gather quantitative and qualitative data on the impact of culture, ethnic identity, and gender on college adjustment of students from Hawaii [who comprise 25 percent of the freshman class at this university] and students from the mainland. Participants were 18 freshmen from a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest who completed three paper and pencil measures, the first assessing cultural orientation (COLINDEX), the second assessing ethnic identity (MEW), and the third assessing adjustment to college (CSEI). Hour long interviews regarding adjustment to college were conducted with the participants. Statistical analyses show very few differences in college adjustment scores based on culture, ethnic identity, or gender. However, the phenomenological experience of college was very different for students from Hawaii than it was for students from the mainland. These findings are discussed with respect to methodological and contextual factors which impacted the results. Specific recommendations are made for future research in this area.


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