Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Self-Efficacy, Attribution, and Adjustment to College Life

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Self-Efficacy, Attribution, and Adjustment to College Life

Article excerpt

The increase in the number of adults enrolling in college highlights the importance of understanding factors that can help students adjust to college life. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percent of adults in the U.S. completing a bachelor's degree rose from 23% in 1990 to 34% in 2014 (Kena et al., 2015). However, not all students who enroll in college successfully complete a degree. Poor adjustment to college life brings about not only a variety of stressors in individuals, but it also leads to ripple effects causing a decline in academic achievement and maladjustments in social and family life (Satterlee, 2002). This difficulty affects individuals and, ultimately, may cause failure in achieving a college education. From this point of view, college students' difficulties in adjustment to college life are not only a problem for individual students but also an important social problem. Thus, studies of adjustment to college life are important.

The transition to college is considered to be an important period in one's life for both traditional and nontraditional students. For a traditional student, defined as an individual "who earns a high school diploma, enrolls full time immediately after finishing high school, depends on parents for financial support, and either does not work during the school year or works part time" (Choy, 2002, p. 1), the transition to college is a crucial period in academic and social adjustment as adolescence turns to adulthood. Traditional students are in transition from the period of relying on their parents and moving to independence as adults. They experience adjustment to the new college environment leaving established social networks of friends and family and attempt to cope with a change in methods of academic work and assessment, increased competition, and new ways of thinking about their experiences (Pennebaker, Colder, & Sharp, 1990).

Even individuals who have already made the transition from parental support to independence as adults experience adjustment challenges when enrolling in college. These nontraditional students, who can be defined as any individual who possesses one or more of the following characteristics, "delays enrollment, attends part time for at least part of the academic year, works full time while enrolled, is considered financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid, has dependents other than a spouse, is a single parent, or does not have a high school diploma" (Choy, 2002, pp. 2-3) experience a unique set of challenges as well. These students are more likely to have multiple demands on their time than traditional students (Choy, 2002), because, in addition to the role of student, they continue playing roles as spouses, parents, and employees. These nontraditional students' role performances and social requirements may lead to problems such as role conflict and psychological stress and contribute to maladjustment to college life (Satterlee, 2002).

Adjustment to college life is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon, but research evidence suggests that some variables may help to facilitate a successful transition. Specifically, the belief or expectation that individuals can overcome situations themselves and successfully perform the tasks given to them is associated with successful adjustment (Bandura, 1977), and the process in which people make explanations regarding the cause of a specific outcome has significant influences on achievement behavior, expectations, and emotions (Weiner, 1985). These variables, termed self-efficacy and attribution, respectively, have been shown to positively predict successful performance in academic contexts, but their applications to individuals' perceptions of college adjustment have yet to be directly examined. Research to assess the influence of self-efficacy and attributions regarding the transition to college is needed to assist students as they adjust to a new environment and cope with the challenges of playing various roles. …

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