Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Academic Support, Social Support, and Professional Development of Higher and Lower Achieving Psychology Majors

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Academic Support, Social Support, and Professional Development of Higher and Lower Achieving Psychology Majors

Article excerpt

When exploring differential experiences of high and low achievers, most research focuses on elementary and secondary level students (Rinn 2004). When high and low achieving college students are studied they may be perceived as largely homogeneous groups with respect to their experiences, needs, and interests (Rinn 2004). It may be assumed that lower achieving college students need academic remediation while higher achieving students need academic enrichment, but much less is known about their social and professional developmental needs.

Academic Support, Social Support, and Measures of Student Success

Many researchers have studied the impact of academic and social support systems on college student success (Conley 2005; Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth 2004). The persistence literature suggests that academic success in college is highly correlated with the ability to become socially and academically integrated into campus life (Bonner & Bailey 2006). Huang and Chang (2004) stated that the more involved students are in the academic and social aspects of college life, the more they benefit in terms of learning and personal development. Harper (2006) found a correlation between social integration and college GPA whereby students holding leadership positions in clubs and organizations reported higher GPAs. Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, and Terenzini (2004) found that first-generation students who participated in extracurricular activities experienced stronger positive effects on critical thinking, degree plans, sense of control over their own academic success, and preference for higher-order cognitive tasks. The positive effects of academic and social support networks on academic achievement are clear, but the process of becoming academically and socially integrated on campus can be challenging. Herbert and McBee (2007) found that faculty mentors were key sources of social support for gifted college students and these mentors assisted students in becoming socially integrated on campus. Fischer (2007) found that through interactions in the social and academic realms, students either reaffirm or reevaluate their initial goals and commitments and those who lack sufficient interaction with others on campus may be more likely to withdraw. Given these findings, it appears that students' perceptions of academic and social support should be measured and analyzed since these perceptions may be predictive of college student success.

Professional Development and Futuristic Planning

The growing trend of undergraduate psychology majors pursuing graduate degrees is understandable given the increasing demand for practitioners in various fields of psychology (Clopton & Haselhuhn 2009). Through discussions with parents, advisers, and faculty, many psychology majors come to realize that the competitive job market may make obtaining advanced degrees in psychology essential for those seeking increased opportunities for gainful employment. In their study of psychology majors' preferences for graduate training at a large comprehensive university, Stinnett, Bui, and Capaccioli (2013) found that psychology majors were more interested in pursuing graduate school options than all other majors and that 67% of all psychology majors indicated that they planned to attend graduate school. The authors suggested that there is not much evidence that psychology programs are adequately informing the majority of their students about graduate school options and potential careers and that faculty may need to be proactive in providing this information to students. Some proactive approaches proposed by Stinnett et al. (2013) include providing ongoing academic, career, and graduate school advising with pre-set meeting dates and developing specialized courses devoted to career exploration and graduate school planning.

Given that a growing number of students are planning to pursue advanced degrees, an expanded form of graduate school advising that is inclusive of higher and lower achieving students may be required. …

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