NMK – Academic Coaching and Communication - Undecided Students: Can Academic Advising Help?

Undecided Students: Can Academic Advising Help?

While many students perceive selecting a major as a super easy task, thousands of students worldwide have entered college undecided with little to no clue on what major program of study to pursue. 

Based on the fact that “selecting a major, for many students, is at times complex and unstructured”, the researcher Betty D. Dennis conducted a full examination on whether retention rates and graduation rates differ between undecided and decided undergraduates. Findings revealed that students who remained undecided after the first year were more likely to leave college; whereas retention among the decided ones was less.

A Little Background

Dennis (2007) reported that, often times, many youngsters have zero idea on what they are basing their decisions on. Mainly, first-year freshmen are very likely to be the undecided ones especially that they enter college “unable, unready, or unwilling to commit themselves to a specific academic direction.”

The author additionally referred to many studies which revealed that several undecided students suffer from “imposter syndrome” or “the struggle assumed by individuals who, despite their strong abilities, do not believe they are capable of success.” Other researches showed that undecided students “find it more difficult to find meaning and enjoyment in their classes and campus experiences”; one factor that increases undecided student turnover.

Key #1 to Decrease Undecided Students’ Turnover

Several other studies have pointed out that academic advising, the relationship, the degree and quality of personal interaction with faculty members are very vital in the process of retention. That is because student-faculty interaction inside and outside the classroom boosts academic integration, performance, and experience.

Having realized that guiding and advising are essential for students to complete graduation requirements, almost every academic institution formalized academic advising. Yet, years after counseling thousands of students, academic institutions finally gave advising an updated definition. Correspondingly, it is currently known as “a process that guides, not directs, students toward their personal goals, giving them information on how to achieve them” (Dennis, 2007).

Add to that, this term is now recognized as a procedure that “offers the potential of linking students’ goals with institutional resources on a personalized basis”. For it to be successful, the advisor and advisee must develop a relationship solidly built on trust. Otherwise, undecided students struggling with imposter syndrome will not to be able to open up for someone and the advisor will never be able to successfully guide them.

Role of Academic Advisors as Reported by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA)

  • Advisors should be trained in college student development theories to understand and incorporate these developmental theories in their work.
  • Their duties include assisting students with making an easy transition into a selected program of study. Add to that. they are required to help them remain on track to graduation.
  • Advising must change as the student changes.
  • Academic advising must be more than selecting classes for undergrads. Instead, it has to be an essential component of every students’ college experience.
  • Advising must be developmental; i.e. a decision making process tailored for undecided students to acknowledge their maximum education potential. This must be basically done through communication and information exchanges with an adviser.
  • This process has to be continuous, multifaceted, and both, the advisee and his/her adviser must take full responsibility to make it effective.
  • The advising process must begin when the student makes a choice to attend university.
  • It has to contribute to undergrads’ connecting with their institution to ensure success.

Lastly, it has been proven that frequent student-advisor contact has been a key factor in every undergraduate’s success” and that those “who do not take advantage of advising services will usually experience more academic problems.”


Dennis, D. B. (2007). Retaining Exploring Students: A Comparison Study of Decided and Undecided College Students. Western Michigan University. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1852&context=dissertations

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NMK – Academic Coaching and Communication

NMK – Academic Coaching and Communication - Undecided Students: Can Academic Advising Help?