Research in Higher Education

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 62–79 | Cite as

Prediction of College Major Persistence Based on Vocational Interests, Academic Preparation, and First-Year Academic Performance

  • Jeff AllenEmail author
  • Steven  B. Robbins


We hypothesized that college major persistence would be predicted by first-year academic performance and an interest-major composite score that is derived from a student’s entering major and two work task scores. Using a large data set representing 25 four-year institutions and nearly 50,000 students, we randomly split the sample into an estimation sample and a validation sample. Using the estimation sample, we found major-specific coefficients corresponding to the two work task scores that optimized the prediction of major persistence. Then, we applied the estimated coefficients to the validation sample to form an interest-major composite score representing the likelihood of persisting in entering major. Using the validation sample, we then tested a theoretical model for major persistence that incorporated academic preparation, the interest-major composite score, and first-year academic performance. The results suggest that (1) interest-major fit and first-year academic performance work to independently predict whether a student will stay in their entering major and (2) the relative importance of two work task scores in predicting major persistence depends on the entering major. The results support Holland’s theory of person-environment fit and suggest that academic performance and interest-major fit are key constructs for understanding major persistence behavior.


College major persistence Holland’s theory Person-environment fit College GPA Hierarchical logistic regression 



We thank Nancy Petersen, James Sconing, and Kyle Swaney of ACT, Inc. for their helpful reviews and technical guidance of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ACT ResearchACT, IncIowa CityUSA

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