Date of Award

5-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Advisor

Sinclair, Robert R

Committee Member

Pury , Cynthia

Committee Member

Raymark , Patrick

Committee Member

Rosopa , Patrick

Abstract

As more students drop out of college and the cost of leaving school without a degree rises, it becomes increasingly critical to help match students to a school that will educate them and facilitate graduation. While the college student retention literature has formulated a number of ideas and theories about how this may be accomplished, the current study uses an idea from the psychological literature, person-environment fit, in order to understand the role of an individual's fit with their college environment on student success. The current study examines individual differences in resilience as well as those in preferences for the presence or absence of environmental variables. Comparing an individual's desire for (the absence of) particular features of the college environment to whether or not they are at a school with (or without) those attributes creates a measure of fit. The Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model is used to explore the role that dispositional resilience and job demands such as a lack of fit between an individual's preferences and objective environmental features play in affecting student retention and adjustment.
The current study hypothesizes that resilience will be most effectively measured by a single factor resilience model comprised of hardiness, core self-evaluations (CSE), and positive psychological capital (PsyCap). It is further hypothesized that resilience and good fit will individually and interactively predict higher commitment, better adjustment, and fewer intentions to leave a school. It is also hypothesized that fit will be of particular importance in predicting outcomes for students in the first half of their college careers.
All of the hypotheses were tested utilizing an archival data set collected from three diverse colleges and universities. Factor analyses led to the creation of a new six factor resilience model comprised of facets from all three composite constructs as well as nine dimensions of college fit. These fit dimensions as well as the resilience dimensions predicted all of the retention-related outcomes. Additionally, there were some significant interactions between fit and year in school as well as fit and resilience, the majority of which showed that individuals high in fit and resilience showed the greatest levels of adjustment to college and lowest levels of intentions to transfer.
Results supported the importance of both fit and resilience for understanding retention as well as the different roles fit plays for those in their first two years of college compared to those later in their college careers. These results also underscored the importance of resilience, particularly the purpose dimension addressing how students make meaning from their lives, for understanding student retention. Contributions, limitations, and future directions are discussed.

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Psychology Commons

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