Academic journal article College Student Journal

Parental Influence on Exploratory Students' College Choice, Major, and Career Decision Making

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Parental Influence on Exploratory Students' College Choice, Major, and Career Decision Making

Article excerpt

This article explores parental influence on exploratory students' college choice, major, and career decision making. The research began with examination of a first year academic advising model and Living Learning Community. Parental influence emerged as a key theme in student decision making processes. The project was conducted using grounded theory techniques, phenomenological perspective, and semi-structured interview technique. Themes emerged from the data, categorized into one of the four S's of Schlossberg's transition theory. The study provided insight into how students made meaning of support systems and experiences which can aid professional practice for supporting this unique population through career and decision making processes.

Keywords: exploratory college students, parental influence, college choice, major and career decision making


"To be, or not to be, that is the question" (Shakespeare & Pearce, 2008, p. 44). This famous phrase from the third act of Shakespeare's Hamlet is one of the most recognizable quotes of all time. When considering the phrase's applicability to first-year college students, this quote can represent a student's process of choosing a major or career. However it also highlights the importance, depth, and context of career decisions. The foundation for career decisions begins long before a student enters college. It is influenced, and even at times dictated, by family, friends, and mentors. This is interesting when juxtaposed against another quote from Hamlet, "To thine own self be true" (Shakespeare & Pearce, 2008, p. 16). Many students arrive on college campuses without knowing who or what they will be. These students, commonly referred to as undecided (Gordon, 2007a) or exploratory (Carduner, Padak, & Reynolds, 2011) bring forth a unique set of characteristics and require special attention from their college or university as they make one of the most crucial decisions in their college career: their academic major.

The research examined how exploratory students made meaning of a first year academic advising model and living learning community (LLC) designed specifically to assist them in major and career exploration. Through interviews and determining commonalities among participants, an unexpected theme emerged: parental influence on college choice, major, and career decision making. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that for many of the participants, major and career decisions were influenced much more by family than by academic advising and the LLC.

This research took place at "Midwestern" a mid-size public Midwestern university. The scope of the study was 12 students, six first year students who discussed current experiences, and six sophomores who reflected on experiences from the previous year. All were "undecided" majors as designated by the university at the beginning of their college career. The sample was demographically and culturally diverse, relative to the campus population. Although the study specifically focused on university's advising and LLC program, it can be applicable for any campus serving exploratory first year students.

Relevant Literature

This study examined exploratory students' perceptions of their experiences. It incorporated Schlossberg's transition theory (Schlossberg, 2011), set in the context of traditional first year student transitions. Schlossberg's theory (2011) discusses transition in terms of four S's': situation, self, strategies and support. Situation factors are elements such as timing, duration of transition, and one's experience with similar transitions. Self factors describe the person experiencing the transition. These can include demographic characteristics such as age, race, or gender, and psychological characteristics such as optimism or self-efficacy. Strategies refer to ways in which individuals cope with the transition. Support refers to people, organizations, or institutions the person turns to for help with the transition. …

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