Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Susan Epps

Committee Members

Hal Knight, Deborah Dotson


The undergraduate major change or declaration process can be cumbersome for students who find themselves in unknown territories when making decisions or seeking help during this transition. One of the most challenging groups of students to assist through this transition are those who are denied access to their intended program of study. These students are often pursuing selective degree programs with limited enrollment and competitive admission requirements. Research on students pursuing selective degree programs is largely outdated, with most studies being older than ten years. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how undergraduate students experience leaving selective health profession interest areas in dental hygiene, nursing, and radiologic sciences at a public research university located in Tennessee.

This qualitative study included the experiences of 12 third and fourth-year college students at one institution who applied for a selective degree program, were not accepted, and remained enrolled at the institution. It included semi-structured, open-ended individual interviews to investigate these undergraduate students’ experiences when undergoing an undergraduate major change away from a selective degree program. The results aligned with the theoretical framework of Schlossberg’s transition theory (Schlossberg, 1981; Schlossberg, 1991; Schlossberg et al., 1995).

The students leaving selective health profession interest areas in dental hygiene, nursing, and radiologic sciences placed importance on college and career choice, experienced change of major difficulties, used campus and other support resources, and developed new strategies for success throughout the change of major process. Recommendations for further study include expanding the sample size and adding other selective degree programs to gain a more holistic picture, developing studies at multiple institutions that follow students throughout the entirety of their undergraduate careers, and investigating students’ coping strategies to identify ways to foster resiliency.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Education Commons