Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John D. Mayer

Second Advisor

Victor A Benassi

Third Advisor

John T Kirkpatrick


Researchers and universities have devoted substantial resources to understanding college students’ experiences in college. One gap in the literature surrounds understanding students’ major selection process. In the current series of studies, I utilized previous research and semi-structured interviews to create the Students’ Reasoning about their Major Survey (RAMS). I conducted exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses on the items in two distinct samples and found a general factor (Satisfaction with the Major) and seven secondary factors (Balance and Flexibility, Prestige, Interpersonal Similarity, Effort and Difficulty, Interest, Perceived Competence, and Decision Aversion). I hypothesized that the RAMS would be related to personal intelligence (i.e., students’ ability to reason about their own and others’ personality and to use this information to guide their choices; Mayer, 2008); and indeed, students with higher levels of personal intelligence exhibited clear signs of making well-reasoned decisions relative to those with lower personal intelligence. The RAMS, personal intelligence, and other psychological variables predicted several academic and advising outcomes. Students who had made a well-reasoned choice of major had higher GPA, higher levels of commitment to their major (e.g., fewer absences in courses for their major, less consideration of changing their major) and engaged in more preparation for their advising appointment. The series of studies presented here support the development and use of the RAMS to measure students’ reasoning about their major, and may be helpful in predicting students’ academic success and commitment.