Psychology ETDs

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The overarching goal of this study was to investigate vocational identity formation and how it influences first year college student retention. Specifically, does the vocational identity of Freshmen college students, who have been accepted to college directly from high school, relate to whether or not they drop out of college in their first year of studies? Students were recruited in New Mexico at both the University of New Mexico (a 4-year university) and Central New Mexico Community College (a 2-year community college). This study was unique in that it employed a short-term longitudinal design to help interpret why some students withdraw during their first year of college and why others persist, by examining where students are on the continuum of vocational identity development in relation to their college enrollment status at each wave of participation. At each session students completed the Vocational Identity Status Assessment (Porfeli, 2009; Porfeli, Lee, Vondracek, & Weigold, 2011), to assess their vocational identity status, and gave a self-report of their college enrollment as well as their intent to enroll the following semester. The two main hypotheses related to vocational identity influencing Freshman college retention during this study were as follows: (1) students who score in the high commitment statuses of Achieved and Foreclosed would stay enrolled in college, and (2) students who scored in the low commitment status of Diffused would drop out of college. Neither of these hypotheses were supported in this research, as virtually all students who remained in the study also reported college enrollment and planned to attend the following semester. Therefore, no students who dropped out of college stayed in the study. This resulted in no determination of vocational identity influencing Freshman college retention. However, the identity status of Searching Moratorium did show developmental change in that these students reduced their Career Flexibility scores, which is a component of Career Reconsideration. Additionally, student variables of (1) parental income and (2) met with a career counselor, did influence where a student had progressed in developing a vocational identity upon entering college. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Kessel, Frank

Second Committee Member

Smith, Bruce

Third Committee Member

Verney, Steven Patrick




Vocational Identity, College Retention, Freshmen

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