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Understanding the notion of choice in the process of university entrance exam in Turkey: a case study at METU

Otaç, Buse Ceren
The aim of this thesis is to analyze the experience of the transition to higher education in the context of Turkey where the means of accessing to higher education is conducted via central examinations. To this end, the questions of “What are the conditions of accessing higher education based on the central examination experience in the context of Turkey? Which characteristics of education system shape the process of university choice? What strategies do students employ and in which ways they play their roles assigned by the system of education to prepare for the exam? How do students relate their scores with choosing a university; is it really a choice?” have been developed. The fieldwork was conducted in the form of semi-structured interviews with 34 students from the Department of Basic English at Middle East Technical University in order to answer those questions. Based on the interviews, the study aims to complicate the concept of university choice to show how both socio-economic backgrounds of participants and contextual characteristics of higher education system in Turkey have been formulating and constraining the university choices in the process of transition to higher education. The study reveals that while the experience of transition to higher education is shaped around the discourse of university choice, the system of central examination has been a barrier for students in terms of not being able to mainly focus on university choice due to the dominance of the central exam itself