22 SES 05 B, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Parallel Paper Session
The choice of post-secondary major is a salient juncture in students’ educational career and can be easily described as a ‘major’ career decision with far-reaching implications for their educational and professional futures (Galotti, 1999). In an era of unbridled opportunities and choice alternatives, students at the doorstep of university face the important challenge of choosing a major that will direct their professional career to a large extent. In the present paper we will shed light on the factors associated with the choice process and the type of major chosen in university.
The Eccles’ et al model of achievement related choice (2005) offers an integrative framework for examining the choice of university major. The model roughly consists of five larger clusters of determinants that influence students’ choices in both a proximal and distal way: (1) stable student characteristics such as gender and personality; (2) socio-cultural milieu, gender roles and socializer’s beliefs; (3) previous achievement-related experiences and perceptions of these experiences; (4) a student’s (long-short term) goals, (academic) self beliefs and expectations of success; and (5) subjective task values (e.g., interests, utility value and relative cost).
The aim of the present study is threefold. First, we will provide some descriptive information on (a) students’ experiences of their choice process and (b) students’ motives to make the transition to higher education (b). Are students convinced of what major to choose at the end of secondary education? Are they affected by significant others (e.g., parents, peers) in their choice process?
In a next phase we will perform an in-depth exploration of the factors that are related to the type of major students choose in university. More specifically, we will investigate the joint effect of several clusters of determinants, partially reflecting the five building blocks of the Eccles’ et al. model of achievement related choice, that is: gender, SES, achievement in Dutch and Math, prior subject uptake in secondary education, academic self-concept, future aspirations and their interest pattern.
Undoubtedly, the choice of a university major is an important decisional threshold but the story does not end here. Therefore, in the final section we will analyze the factors associated with failure/success in the first year at university supplemented with a descriptive analysis of the choice made in the second year of higher education after failure in the first year. Do failed students repeat the same major or do they redirect their educational career towards another professional field?
Data of the LOSO-project (the Dutch acronym for Longitudinal Research in Secondary Education; Van Damme et al., 2002) were used to answer the research questions. In the present study we focused on a subsample of 2284 students who opted for a university major. In order to attain the second research goal, we narrowed down the large number of university majors to a (statistically) manageable set by clustering them into eight unordered categories: Engineering, Economics , Medical and Paramedical Sciences, Psychology and Educational Sciences, Law and Criminology, Sciences, Social and Political Sciences and Literature/History/Arts.
Eccles, J.S. (2005). Subjective task values and the Eccles et al. model of achievement related choices. In: Handbook of competence and motivation, Eds. A.J. Elliot & C.S. Dweck (pp. 105- 121). New York: Guilford Press. Galotti, K. M. (1999). Making a “major” real-life decision: College students choosing an academic major. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 379-387. Graham, J.W., Olchowski A.E., & Gilreath, T.D. (2007). How many imputations are really needed? Some practical clarifications of multiple imputation theory. Prevention Science, 8, 206-213. Van Damme, J., De Fraine B., Van Landeghem G., Opdenakker M. C. & Onghena, P. (2002). A new study on educational effectiveness in secondary education in Flanders: An introduction. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 13, 383–397.
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