Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Thomas E. Miller

Keywords

academic majors, advising, CSXQ, freshmen, persistence, retention

Abstract

Student persistence and achievement are areas of significant concern for institutions of higher education. With national college graduation rates hovering in the 50% range, it is important for colleges and universities to understand which student characteristics and campus environments lead to greater success, as well as the expectations students have of the college experience.

Research on undeclared students is vast and dates back more than 70 years, and many of the seminal studies and respected research data have led to the perception that they are at higher risk of attrition and have lower levels of academic achievement than their declared peers. Research also shows that the two most important ways to help students connect to institutions is through faculty interactions and involvement in clubs and organizations. A new and growing body of research on student expectations posits that students who have unmet expectations of the college experience are also at higher risk of attrition. This study sought to integrate those three research concepts and analyze the expectations of undeclared students to determine if undeclared students had lower expectations of the college experience than their declared peers, specifically as those expectations relate to interactions with faculty and involvement in clubs and organizations. This study also sought to determine if undeclared students had lower levels of academic achievement or persistence than their declared peers.

Using the College Student Expectations Questionnaire (CSXQ), this research analyzed the expectations of 3,219 first time in college (FTIC) students at a large, metropolitan, public university in the South who responded to the CSXQ during summer 2008 orientation.

Results indicated that although differences were discovered between undeclared and declared students for expectations of student-faculty interaction and for expectations of involvement in clubs and organizations, the low effect sizes indicated that the differences could not be attributed directly to declaration of major. Results also indicated that undeclared students did not persist at rates statistically significantly different than their declared peers, nor did they achieve lower GPAs or fewer credit hours.

While this study did not reveal statistically significant differences for any of the dependent variables, this research is beneficial in that these results contribute to the research findings that undeclared students are not attrition prone or less likely to achieve. More current research is needed on the population of undeclared students to determine if the perceptions are outdated and no longer generalizable to today's generation of students. Additionally, more research is needed on the expectations of students, in general, to determine what impact, if any, those expectations have on student interactions with the college environment and on the outcomes of persistence, achievement, and graduation.

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