Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer


This study examines the reasons student athletes choose their major and the challenges they face creating a successful student identity, and ultimately graduating with degrees of value to them. A survey was created utilizing themes from previous studies, and distributed at one Midwestern Division I university. Questions regarding time management, academic conflicts, health issues, service usage, selection of major, career aspirations, and perceptions of identity, following Arthur Chickering's theory of College Student Development were asked.

Results show the majority of the 171 student athlete respondents indicated few conflicts with time management (e.g., they generally have time to complete class work), health (e.g., they generally do not have difficulties maintaining health), or academics (e.g., they generally can take needed classes). Student athletes utilize few of the services provided such as early registration and study table, and most have chosen their major out of interest. They also perceive their identity as both student and athlete, not primarily as one or the other.

There were several significant differences between gender in health, academic service usage, and identity perception. Female student athletes feel stressed, use academic services, and perceive themselves primarily as a student more than their juniors than freshman have a job waiting after college. One significant difference between scholarship levels was found, whereas those on full scholarships more often planned to become a professional athlete. On a small scale, a progression of identity development, from that of an "athlete" during their early years of college to more of a "student" during their final college years was found.

These findings affirm some previous research on student athletes, while adding to the knowledge base by having included student athletes from all sports and collecting data regarding service usage. Overall, this study shows that student athletes as a whole do not have severe academic or identity challenges, and are able to choose majors and careers of interests.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access