Measuring College Belongingness: Structure and Measurement of the Sense of Social Fit Scale

Amir H. Maghsoodi, Nidia Ruedas-Gracia, Ge Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sense of belonging is theorized to be a fundamental human need and has been shown to have important implications in many domains of life, including academic achievement. The Sense of Social Fit scale (SSF; Walton & Cohen, 2007) is widely used to assess college belongingness, particularly to study differences in academic experiences along lines of gender and race. Despite its wide use, the instrument’s latent factor structure and measurement invariance properties have not been reported in the published literature to date. Consequently, researchers regularly use subsets of the SSF’s items without psychometric justification. Here, we explore and validate the SSF’s factor structure and other psychometric properties, and we provide recommendations about how to score the measure. A one-factor model in Study 1 showed poor fit, and exploratory factor analyses extracted a four-factor solution. Study 2’s confirmatory factor analyses demonstrated superior fit of a bifactor model with four specific factors (from Study 1) and one general factor. Ancillary analyses supported a total scale scoring method for the SSF and did not support computing raw subscale scores. We also tested the bifactor model’s measurement invariance across gender and race, compared latent mean scores between groups, and established the model’s criterion and concurrent validity. We discuss implications and suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424–435
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023


  • college belonging
  • factor analysis
  • measurement invariance
  • sense of belonging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology


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