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Individual Achievement, Person-Major Fit, or Social Expectations: Why Do Students Switch Majors in German Higher Education?

Jasmin Meyer (), Kathrin Leuze and Susanne Strauss
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Jasmin Meyer: University of Konstanz
Kathrin Leuze: Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
Susanne Strauss: University of Konstanz

Research in Higher Education, 2022, vol. 63, issue 2, No 2, 222-247

Abstract: Abstract While a large body of research addresses both subject choice and student dropout in higher education, much less is known about switching the initially chosen major. Therefore, we ask why students switch their major in higher education and analyse this for the case of Germany, taking the timing and the degree of such switches (within and across subject groups) into account. Based on the extended rational choice framework, we identify three aspects that might explain switching majors: individual achievement in secondary education, a (mis)match between individual occupational interests and the content of studies and parental and peer judgement regarding the initial subject choice. We test the derived hypotheses by applying logistic regression models to representative data from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), Starting Cohort 5. Our results indicate that the analysed aspects of individual achievement, person-major fit and social expectations affect switching majors, but their influence varies according to the degree and timing of the switch. While high-achieving students are more likely to switch majors, especially across disciplines and at a later stage in their studies, a mismatch in occupational interests mainly affects switching majors across broad subject groups. Finally, disapproval of the initial subject choice by parents and peers matters most for switches during the first two semesters and across academic disciplines.

Keywords: Switching major; Individual performance; Person-major fit; Social expectations; Germany (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1007/s11162-021-09650-y

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