Majoring in Selection, and Minoring in Socialization: The Role of the College Experience in Goal Change Post-High School

Patrick L. Hill, Joshua J. Jackson, Nicole Nagy, Gabriel Nagy, Brent W. Roberts, Oliver Lüdtke, Ulrich Trautwein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Though it is frequently assumed that the college experience can influence our life goals, this claim has been relatively understudied. The current study examined the role of goals in college major selection, as well as whether major selection influences later goal change. In addition, we examined whether a person's perceptions of his or her peers' goals influence goal setting. Using a sample of German students (Mage=19 years; n=3,023 at Wave 1), we assessed life goal levels and changes from high school into college across three assessment occasions. Participants reported their current aspirations, along with the perceived goals of their peers during the college assessments. Using latent growth curve models, findings suggest that life goals upon entering college significantly predict the majors students select. However, this major selection had limited influence on later changes in life goals. Stronger effects were found with respect to perceptions of peers' goals, with students tending to change their goals to better align with their peers. The current study provides evidence that life goals are relatively stable and yet can change during the emerging adult years, in ways that demonstrate the potential influence of the college experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-203
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality
Volume84
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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