Home > Educational Leadership, Higher Education > Advising Undecided and Indecisive Students

Advising Undecided and Indecisive Students

By by Virginia N. Gordon, Wesley R. Habley, Thomas J. Grites, and Associates

In the research literature, there is a clear distinction between the use of the terms undecided and indecisive when describing college students. This is an important consideration when defining the roles and responsibilities of advisors and counselors as well. Gordon (2007, p. x) defined undecided students as those students who were “unwilling, unable, or unready to make educational and/or vocational decisions.” A student who has difficulty making any decision, however, may be considered indecisive (Appel, Haak, & Witzke, 1970; Goodstein, 1965). Gordon (2007) described an indecisive student as having characteristics deriving from the “result of unsatisfactory habits of thinking that permeates the individual’s total life” (p. 11). The important distinction between these two definitions is that advisors, working within the framework of either the developmental or mentoring role as defined by Kuhn, Gordon, and Webber (2006), should be prepared to not only work with undecided students but to have the capability to detect characteristics of indecisive students so that they may refer them for personal counseling.

The transitions undecided students go through vary greatly and truly reflect issues most students must address during their progression through college. After reviewing the literature on undecided students, Lewallen (1993) concluded that the research was “conflicting, contradictory, and confusing.” Other researchers have determined that undecided students are a heterogeneous group with few similarities (Baird, 1967; Hagstrom, Skovholt, & Rivers, 1997; Holland & Holland, 1977). Perhaps the key to understanding this phenomenon is that many early studies attempted to compare “undecided” students with those who were “decided.” During the 1990s, much of the research was focused on investigating undecided student characteristics by defining subtypes of undecided and decided students (Newman, Fuqua, & Minger, 1990; Savickas & Jorgourna, 1991). These studies suggested ways of grouping decided and undecided students so that specifically designed interventions, based upon their personality characteristics and decision-making abilities, could be created.

Continued at: https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/tomorrows-professor

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