Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Monica Burnette, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Garton, Ph.D.


undecided-major student, first-year, academic engagement, social engagement, retention, persistence


Research suggests that a student’s persistence in higher education is influenced by their academic preparation, commitments, and involvement, (Tinto 2005). Predictors including student demographics, academic preparation and commitments have shown in previously studies to affect the rate at which students persist in higher education, (Pascarella & Terenzini 2005, Astin & Oseguera 2005, Terenzini & Reason 2005). Involvement at an institution contributes to a students’ engagement and intent to persist in higher education or at a specific institution. Researchers have found that students engage in the university, academically and socially, based on how their values align with the institution, feedback they receive on their achievement, interactions with peers and their sense of belonging to the campus community, (Tinto, 1993, Renn & Reason 2013).

Students who are committed to an institution and their educational goals are more likely to graduate from an institution than those who were less committed, (Granke, Woosley & Helms 2006). While some researchers indicate that students who are or “undecided majors” are just as likely to persist and complete their degrees as those who were committed to a degree, others indicate that having a major predicted their academic performance and intent to persist, (Graunke, Woosley & Helsm, 2006, Allen & Robbins 2008). ). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2022.b), as of 2018, there are 305,000 undecided major students enrolled at four-year institutions. This is approximately 12% of the student population at 4-year institutions who persisted between 2018 and 2019. This study will examine the retention and persistence rates of undecided major students utilizing data from the National Survey of Student Engagement. It will also discuss demographic, precollege factors of undecided students as well as social and academic engagement factors they partake in the first year in higher education.