Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Charles C. Warfield


U.S. four-year institutions graduate fewer than 50% of its first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students within six years Today, improving college student retention and graduation rates is a primary focus of higher education nationwide. Scholars have found that students who enter college undecided and are still exploring majors need a great deal of support to be retained. Research has also demonstrated that between 20% and 50% of entering freshmen have not selected a major course of study and that colleges and universities are concerned these students are at a higher risk of leaving the institution. What is unclear is whether selecting a major influences retention rates (to sophomore year), grade point average, and graduation rates (within six years) for college students. Likewise, it is also unclear as to whether or not these same variables are impacted across race and gender.

The purpose of this study was to compare students who entered college without a major program of study with those who entered decided on a major. This was done in two ways: (1) to examine whether there was a difference in retention rates, grade point averages, and graduation rates for first-year (freshmen) students who entered college undecided with those who entered with a declared major: and (2) to measure the demographic influences of race and gender on these same variables for both groups.

This study employed quantitative methods through ANOVA, correlation, and regression analysis in order to examine students attending a Midwestern institution beginning in the Fall of 2000 (n = 4435) to determine if there is a difference in retention rates (to sophomore year), grade point average, and graduation rates (within six years) between students who selected a major with those who have not. ANOVA analysis was also used to determine if race and gender impact these variables.

It was found that there is a statistically significant difference in both retention and graduation rates for undecided and decided students but no difference in grade point average. However, when race and gender are considered there is a statistically significant difference in all three of the variables between the two groups.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access