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Differences in support within the social science graduate admissions pipeline

Tidwell & Logan / Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education / Sep 20, 2023

Happy Latin Family at Laptop

The purpose of this paper is to understand demographic group (race, first-generation college graduate, gender, age) differences among perceived family and faculty social and family financial support within the US graduate school admissions pipeline in the social sciences. Using data from a cross-sectional convenience sample survey (N = 99), this paper looks at ordinal social support variables (faculty member support, family social support and family financial support) by demographic groups. This paper uses a Mann–Whitney U test to compare first-generation status, race and gender and a Kruskal–Wallis H test to compare age groups. This paper finds that applicants over 27 years old had significantly less faculty support in the graduate admissions pipeline compared to other age groups; differences in faculty support across race were marginally significant (p = 0.057). Regarding family social support, this paper finds first-generation applicants, male applicants and applicants over 27 years old report lower levels of support. Finally, this paper finds first-generation applicants and applicants over 27 years old report lower levels of familial financial support. Previous literature on graduate admissions – published in this journal (Pieper and Krsmanovic, 2022) and others – does not consider experiences up to and before applicants hit the “submit” button on graduate applicants, which the authors term the graduate admissions pipeline. Instead, most previous literatures focus on faculty committees and validity of required application materials. Thus, this study begins to answer Posselt and Grodsky’s (2017) call to develop an understanding of applicant experiences and support within the graduate admissions pipeline.