Promoting college student retention and career success remains a primary goal for higher education. Toward this end, we examined the role of goal congruity and self-connection in the extent to which students feel positivity toward their major. Specifically, we tested the role of self-connection in the relationship between goals and positivity toward college major among 188 college students. When we examined communal goals, a moderated indirect effect emerged, suggesting that communal goals related to self-connection only when students' majors did not provide communal affordances. For agentic goals, an indirect effect emerged such that endorsing agentic goals (regardless of agentic affordances) promoted self-connection. In both cases, self-connection then related to views toward one's major. These results suggest that communicating the communal value of majors to college students might promote self-connection and have positive implications for retention of college students. Furthermore, encouraging students to consider their communal and agentic goals might lead to feeling positively toward their major.
Keywords: communal goals, agentic goals, goal congruence, self-connection, college students
Forty percent of students who attend college will leave without earning a college degree (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009). Therefore, understanding reasons college students persevere to completion of their studies is of interest to students, universities, and career professionals alike. To date, research suggests that college students who perceive that their major fits with their deeply held values and goals tend to report more interest in and motivation for their field of study (Diekman et al., 2010, 2011; Diekman & Steinberg, 2013; Harackiewicz & Sansone, 1991; Isaac et al, 1999; Morgan et al, 2001; Sansone & Harackiewicz, 1996) and are more likely to graduate in that field (Lindeman & Durik, 2018). However, the mechanisms by which this happens are yet unknown. We propose that the match between personally held values and goals with the values and goals afforded by one's major cultivates a sense of self-connection. Self-connection, in turn, promotes students' interest in and motivation for their major. To this end, the current study explored how self-connection relates to goal congruity and positivity toward one's college major in ways that inform how to promote retention of college students and ultimately lead them into rewarding careers.
According to goal congruity theory, students are interested in and motivated to pursue majors and careers that they perceive as offering opportunities to fulfill their goals (e.g., Diekman & Steinberg, 2013). That is, when students have goals of helping others and view their major as allowing them to help others (i.e., there is goal congruity), students tend to view their major positively. Ultimately, this positivity contributes to long-term interest and motivation (Diekman et al., 2010, 2011; Diekman & Steinberg, 2013; Harackiewicz & Sansone, 1991; Isaac et al, 1999; Morgan et al, 2001; Sansone & Harackiewicz, 1996). For example, imagine a college freshman whose grandfather was injured in a train malfunction. This student would like to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering because it will allow her opportunities to design trains in such a way that future accidents...