Self-Concept as a Predictor of College Freshman Academic Adjustment

Article excerpt

Whether self-concept predicts college freshman academic adjustment was investigated measuring self-perception of 12 self-concept domains and 5 social support domains. Self-perception of intellectual ability and Instructors' support were positive predictors. Self-perception of creativity and the importance to men of close friendships were negative predictors. Implications for at-risk students were discussed.


Successful adjustment to college during the first year is an area of increasing concern for most institutions of higher education (McGrath & Braunstein, 1997, Tinto, 1993). Studies show that more students leave their college or university without completing a degree program than will stay to graduate. According to the American College Testing Program (ACT) data files, institutional attrition across the nation has remained relatively stable since 1983. This and other reports indicate that, of the nearly 2.8 million students who enter higher education for the first time, over 1.6 million leave their first institution prior to graduation. Of these "leavers", approximately 1.2 million will leave higher education without ever earning their degree. In general, only 44% of 4-year higher education institution students complete their degree program (Tinto, 1993; Youn, 1992). Since 75% of students who drop out of college do so within the first two years and the greatest proportion of these drop out after the first year (Tinto, 1993), it is critically important to understand the complex forces that influence successful academic adjustment during the first year.

Most research investigations on retention attempt to identify the individual factors that predict academic adjustment. Baker and Siryk (1984) define academic adjustment as having a positive attitude toward setting academic goals, completing academic requirements, the effectiveness of their efforts to meet these requirements, and their academic environment. Theories of retention and academic success (Ratcliff, 1991; Tinto, 1993) propose two types of factors relating to whether or not a student remains in college: (1) individual factors or dispositions students have upon entering the institution, and (2) interactional factors that relate to experiences the students have after entering the institution.

One important individual disposition is the student's intentions for going to college, including the extent to which the student has set educational and occupational goals and made some career decisions. A number of studies support the influence of these individual characteristics on academic persistence. Student attitudes about going to college, values, sense of purpose and sense of independence have a direct influence on academic achievement (Ratcliff, 1991). A review of studies by Tinto (1993) indicates that the higher the level of educational or occupational goals, the greater the probability the student will complete college. A student may be initially undecided about career and/or major and still pursue a college education (Lewallen, 1993).

Another important disposition is the student's commitment to meet individual goals and the willingness to comply with the academic and social demands of the institution. Recent surveys report a number of recent trends that suggest freshmen are experiencing increasingly more stress. Between 1987 and 1997, the percent of freshmen who reported being overwhelmed by "everything I have to do" increased steadily from 16.4% to 29.4%, and the percent who sought personal counseling after entering college increased from 34.7% to 41.11% (Austin, Parrott, Korn, & Sax, 1997). Studies have shown that students overcame these feelings of pressure and persisted in their education if they made a commitment to their educational goals and committed to the belief that attending their institution was the right decision (Sanders & Burton, 1996; Ratcliff, 1991). …