Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Occupational and Technical Studies

Committee Director

Philip A. Reed

Committee Member

Petros Katsioloudis

Committee Member

Steve Myran


This mixed methods study was designed to determine the type and quality of pre-college career guidance experiences of college freshmen and the impact of those experiences on student performance and retention. This study was limited to first time freshmen at a small private university in Tennessee. The population was 46% male and 54% female from 6 different ethnic groups. Students came from 5 different secondary school settings including Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) academies, home school environments, public high schools, other Christian schools, and individuals who had obtained a general education diploma (GED).

Qualitative data were collected through a phone survey to academies, student interviews, secondary classroom observations, and document reviews. These served to determine the extent of career guidance activities that were provided for the students prior to enrollment in college. Quantitative data were collected and analyzed from an online survey that yielded 491 responses or 78% of the freshman class.

Interviewees who experienced limited pre-college career guidance were at a disadvantage in their ability to make meaningful choices when selecting a major. These students based their career decisions on factors that were unrelated to their own skills, aptitudes, or the job market. They relied on the opinions of friends or family as the major influence for their choices. All of the interviewees who had received minimal pre-college career guidance expressed a desire to know more about their personal traits and appropriate career options. In contrast, those who were exposed to substantial amounts of career guidance described their experience as enlightening and beneficial. One-on-one career counseling and aptitude assessments were singled out as particularly valuable by those of this group.

Significant relationships were found between the assessments variable as well as work experience variable with grade point average, but no significant relationships were found between any of the career guidance variables with re-enrollment for the next school year.

Recommendations included further study of the impact of career guidance on a long term basis and identification of new career guidance variables. The development and implementation of a comprehensive career guidance model for SDA academies was also suggested.