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  • The Undecided College Student: An Academic and Career Advising Challenge by Virginia N. Gordon and George E. Steele
  • Elizabeth M. Higgins
The Undecided College Student: An Academic and Career Advising Challenge Virginia N. Gordon and George E. Steele Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 2015, 293 pages, $44.95 (softcover)

Undecided students make up a large portion of the college going population. In addition to navigating college-level learning, these individuals have the added responsibility of identifying and deciding upon a major that complements both their personal and professional interests. The complexity of the undecided population warrants skillful and focused attention from institutions and the advisors assisting them.

The current higher education priorities on retention and persistence to graduation make understanding each student’s educational and professional goals and their attainment all the more important. The diversity of the undecided population adds to the complexity of this task and, consequently, to the complexity of academic and career advising. The Undecided College Student: An Academic and Career Advising Challenge offers some clarity regarding this diverse population in order for the student affairs practitioner to understand undecided students’ needs and possible ways to assist them in the decision-making process. In addition to paying tribute to the body of knowledge and practices shared in the previous editions, Virginia Gordon and George Steele highlight the purpose of this fourth edition as providing a comprehensive examination of the undecided college student through the lens of the past and most recent research, theories, and best practices designed for the digital natives entering higher education.

Chapter 1 guides the reader through almost 90 years of research highlighting early antecedents for student indecision as well as the characteristics, behaviors, and traits of the undecided student. The research focuses on the multiple career indecision types as well as the models, assessments, and instruments used to identify the intricacies within each type. Gordon and Steele specifically examine 19 studies outlining different variables and subtypes of the undecided population while summarizing undecided student characteristics. Although the chart does not cover all the available research, it does provide the reader with a rich and succinct overview. The authors discuss the influences on career decision-making such as expectations of family and society, career barriers, the calling for meaningful work, and the role of gender and culture in the decision-making process.

Chapter 2, Theoretical Frameworks Relevant to Undecided Students captures the importance of using theory to inform professional practice. The authors offer a useful theoretical boot camp intended to guide practice. They review the key theories of the developmental construct, while outlining specific career identification and [End Page 900] decision-making theories. The implications for undecided students are interspersed throughout the chapter offering the reader specific advising ramifications and a better understanding of how theory and practice complement one another.

Gordon and Steele highlight the importance of understanding the sub-populations within the undecided student group. Chapter 3, Types of Undecided Students dives into each sub-population providing information on needs, concerns, and potential advisor interactions that can assist students. The extensive profile of each sub-population examines its characteristics, highlighting the importance of gaining knowledge and understanding in order to provide appropriate advice and resources to meet the unique needs of the ever-changing undecided student. The importance of gathering specific information to determine each student’s level of indecisiveness, information needs, and reasons for college attendance is stressed for individual advising as well as institutional planning and decision-making. An example of an entrance survey is provided showcasing how such information can be easily obtained.

Chapter 4, Administrative Models and Scope of Services begins by providing a program self-assessment instrument used to determine the comprehensiveness and scope of services. This instrument is applicable to all institution types and can be easily modified for specific needs. The introduction of an assessment tool on the first page of the chapter presents the critical nature of both program and advisor assessment and its connection to student learning. The program self-assessment tool allows for readers to gauge program effectiveness as they proceed through the chapter. Gordon and Steele also identify possible delivery systems for undecided advisement and strongly suggest the...


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pp. 900-902
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