2012. Vol.3, No.5, 399-405
Published Online May 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2012.35056
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 399
Personality and College Major Choice: Which Come First?
Michela Balsamo1, Marco Lauriola2*, Aristide Saggino1
1Università degli Studi “G. d’Annunzio” Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy
2Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, Roma, Italy
Received February 6th, 2012; revised March 8th, 2012; accepted April 9th, 2012
The present study attempts to solve the nature of the known individual differences in personality related to
academic college major choice. The question whether these precede or follow the choice of an academic
major is still open. To rule out environmental influences during academic study, group differences in
personality were assessed in perspective college students, thus before the incoming in a specific academic
major. The Big Five Questionnaire-60 (BFQ; Caprara, Schwartz, Capanna, Vecchione, & Barbaranelli,
2006) and a questionnaire assessing the behavioural intention to enrol in different university faculties
were administered to a sample of 886 last-year students who enrolled in different senior high schools.
Among the Big-Five Factors, Extraversion and Conscientiousness have been found the explanatory vari-
ables predicting high-school students’ expressed choice for their perspective academic career. These find-
ings give a preliminary empirical support to the hypothesis of the pre-existence of group differences in
personality at the moment of their choice for a specific academic career. Limitations and implications for
future research are discussed.
Keywords: Personality Traits; College Major Choice
Deciding whether going to college and which college major
to matriculate in is one of the most important life decisions and
perhaps the first important life decision for students in Western
industrialized countries (Galotti, 2007). Also, it represents a
decision that research has shown to be the most frequently
identified life regret for Americans (Roese & Summerville,
2005). It is indeed important for students to choose a college
environment that fits well with their personal characteristics. In
fact, according to Holland’s (1985, 1996, 1997) vocational
theory, students are expected to flourish as long as there is a
good fit between personality and environment characteristics.
Not surprisingly, it has been documented that a poor fit is likely
to adversely affect student well-being and performance at
school, while a good fit can make college years less stressful
and can help reducing student attrition, which may eventually
turn out in dropping out from college (Tracey & Robbins, 2006;
Schmitt, Oswald, Friede, Imus, & Merritt, 2008; Wintre et al.,
2008; Allen & Robbins, 2008, 2010; Gilbreath, Kim & Nichols,
2010; Tracey, Allen, & Robbins, 2011).
Likewise, personnel psychologists proposed a model by
which workers are first attracted by organizations that are
seemingly alike to their personality characteristics, then se-
lected by these organizations, and eventually drop out from the
organization because of an actual misfit between worker per-
sonality characteristics and environment requests (Schneider,
Goldstein, & Smith, 1995; Slaughter, Stanton, Mohr & Schoel,
2005; De Cooman et al., 2009).
Personality research on this topic supported both vocational
and personnel psychology claims as it concerns the person-
environment fit hypothesis based on evidence collected from
college students which already started their academic way.
However, while in the current person-environment fit literature
it is important to separate “socialization” effects from “selec-
tion” effects (Miech, Caspi, Moffitt, Entner-Wright, & Silva,
1999), such personality studies are unable to disentangle these
effects as long as they compared the average profile of students
sampled from different faculties. Thus, the question whether
individual differences in personality precede or follow the
choice of an academic major, and eventually predict students’
proficiency in a specific major, is still open.
Before presenting data collected from senior high-school
students during the period they make their decisions about fu-
ture college major choice, we review personality literature to
trace the personality profile of different college majors onto
which comparing the personality profile of groups of perspec-
tive college students, which are not yet exposed to the “sociali-
zation” effects of any college environment.
Personalit y T r ai ts a n d Uni versity Major
It has been documented that there are consistent personality
differences between groups of students enrolled in different
majors (Hu & Gong, 1990; Corulla & Coghill, 1991; Kline &
Lapham, 1992; Harris, 1993; Wilson & Jackson, 1994; De
Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996; Lievens, Coetsier, De Fruyt, & De
Maeseneer, 2002; Rubinstein, 2005; Marrs, Barb, & Ruggiero,
2007; Van der Molen, Schmidt, & Kruisman, 2007; Lounsbury,
Smith, Levy, Leong, & Gibson, 2009).
Most studies of the Big-Five and academic college major
choice compared natural-science and applied-science students
to other groups. Students enrolled in natural-science majors not
only were often described as more introverted than those en-
rolled in humanities, social science and art majors (Hu & Gong,
1990; Harris, 1993), but they were also more introverted than
applied-science, medical students and mixed control groups
M. BALSAMO ET AL.
(Corulla & Coghill, 1991; Wilson & Jackson, 1994; Lievens,
Coetsier, De Fruyt, & De Maeseneer, 2002). Other traits have
been associated with the choice of a natural-science college
major. Results show that natural-science students attained
higher Emotional Stability scores than humanities, art and law
or economics students (Hu & Gong, 1990; Corulla & Coghill,
1991; De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996; Rubinstein, 2005), as well
as lower scores on Openness to Experience than humanities,
social science, political science, art and mixed control groups
(Kline & Lapham, 1992; Harris, 1993; De Fruyt & Mervielde,
1996; Marrs, Barb, & Ruggiero, 2007). Students enrolled in
applied-science majors resulted as more conscientious than
humanities, social science, political science, art and mixed con-
trol groups (Kline & Lapham, 1992; De Fruyt & Mervielde,
1996; Van der Molen, Schmidt, & Kruisman, 2007), as well as
more closed minded than other groups but natural-science ma-
jors (Kline & Lapham, 1992; De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996).
However, applied-science students not only described them-
selves as less agreeable and cooperative than natural-science
ones (Kline & Lapham, 1992; De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996),
but also more though-minded than mixed control groups (Van
der Molen et al., 2007). Making a summary of these findings,
one may presume that the personality profile of natural-science
students is mostly characterized by Introversion, while that of
applied-science students is mostly characterized by Conscien-
tiousness, Closed- and Tough-Mindedness.
Most studies which involved humanities students provided
consistent results as to their lesser extraverted personality, es-
pecially if they were compared to medical, applied-science,
natural-science, law or economics and political science students
(De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996; Lievens et al., 2002). However,
the issue whether humanities students are more or less extra-
verted than natural-science students is still open. Whereas Hu
and Gong (1990) concluded that humanities students are more
extraverted than natural-science, the opposite conclusion was
drawn by De Fruyt and Mervielde (1996). In addition, most
studies reported lower Conscientiousness scores for humanities
students relative to medical, applied-science, natural-science,
law or economics and political science students (De Fruyt &
Mervielde, 1996; Lievens et al., 2002), as well as higher neu-
roticism scores than applied-science, natural-science, politi-
cal-science and mixed control groups (Hu & Gong, 1990; De
Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996). Based on this literature we may
conclude that the personality profile of humanities-students
may be outlined as characterized by Introversion, Neuroticism
and Carelessness relative to other groups.
Higher Openness to Experience scores mostly differentiated
students enrolled into social-science majors from science ma-
jors, both natural and applied (Kline & Lapham, 1992; Harris,
1993; De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996; Marrs, Barb, & Ruggiero,
2007), as well as from Law or Economics, Arts and mixed con-
trol groups (Harris, 1993; De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996; Rubin-
stein, 2005; Marrs, Barb, & Ruggiero, 2007). As it regards the
presumed Extraversion of social-science students, our literature
review supported this claim only when social-science students
have been compared to humanities and natural-science students,
who were the more introverted groups (Harris, 1993; De Fruyt
& Mervielde, 1996). Like humanities students, social-science
students were less conscientious than applied-science, natural-
science, law or economics and political-science students (Kline
& Lapham, 1992; De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996).
Business and law students were higher in Extraversion and
Conscientiousness than humanities students, as well as more
conscientious than social-science majors (De Fruyt & Mer-
vielde, 1996). In addition, they were the most though minded
group relative to many other groups, such as medical, social-
science, natural, arts and mixed control students (De Fruyt &
Mervielde, 1996; Lievens et al., 2002; Rubinstein, 2005;
Lounsbury, Smith, Levy, Leong, & Gibson, 2009). A few stud-
ies have considered art and medical students. Art students
mostly differentiated themselves from science students, both
natural and applied, as they obtained higher Openness to Ex-
perience and Neuroticism scores as well as lower Conscien-
tiousness scores (Corulla & Coghill, 1991; Kline & Lapham,
1992; Harris, 1993). Furthermore, art students were described
as more agreeable (Kline & Lapham, 1992), but less open to
experience than social science-students (Marrs et al., 2007). No
positive findings have been reported in the literature as to the
difference between art and humanities majors. To our knowl-
edge, the only study who compared the Big-Five profile of
medical students to that of other groups reported that medical
students obtained higher scores on Extraversion and Agree-
ableness than seven different academic majors (Lievens et al.,
The Present Study
Based on major theories of vocational choice as well on the
literature that we have reviewed in the above section (see also
Lauriola, Saggino, Balsamo, & Gioggi, 2005), the question
whether personality factors are associated with attending the
choice of an academic major is no longer a issue. Though some
inconsistent results, the personality profile of natural-science
students is mostly characterized by Introversion, while that of
applied-science students is mostly characterized by a mixture of
Conscientiousness, Closed- and Tough-Mindedness. Further-
more, the personality profile of humanities-students was char-
acterized by Introversion, Neuroticism and Carelessness rela-
tive to other groups. Social-science students are often described
as moderately extraverted but less conscientious than other
groups of students.
The hypothesis that a specific academic environment may
actively attract and select some specific personality types has
been traditionally investigated by comparing the profile of dif-
ferent groups of students. However, such studies say little about
whether group differences in personality preceded one’s aca-
demic choice or whether group differences in personality are
accounted for by a selective pressure of a specific environment.
Despite a complete answer to this question would require ex-
tensive controlled longitudinal research over a period of time
longer than five years (considering five years as a reasonable
expected time to complete college studies), some evidence
supporting the pre-existence of individual differences in per-
sonality can be provided by survey research assessing senior
high-school students. No such study has been carried out yet so
far. Thus, the main goal of the present study is comparing the
personality profile of senior high-school students at the moment
of their choice for a specific academic career. Different from
the studies reviewed in the introduction, we look for personality
characteristics that are of some importance when high-school
students sort themselves into a specific major, not for personal-
ity traits that characterized specific college majors. The extent
to which the profile of perspective college students is alike to
that reported in the literature for groups sampled within specific
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
M. BALSAMO ET AL.
academic majors can help answering the question whether indi-
vidual differences in personality precede or follow the aca-
A total of 886 students at the last high-school year (495 fe-
males and 391 males) aged 17 to 20 years old (M = 18.11; SD
= .58) were surveyed from different parts of Italy. Four-hun-
dred-seventy-six participants were from the north (53.7%), 136
were from the centre (15.3%), and 274 were from the south
(30.9%) of the country. As to the attended school type, the sur-
veys were collected from 493 students in college preparing
high-schools (128 humanities-oriented, 287 science-oriented
and 78 teacher-training) and from 393 students in job preparing
high-schools (211 technical-accountants, 96 polytechnic, 86
leisure-and-tourism). All participants were in the last year of
the senior high school and were surveyed about two months
earlier than they ended the school. As a part of the survey,
high-school students were filtered on a preliminary question
asking for whether they planned to continue their academic
career at college. Those who answered positively to this ques-
tion (N = 754, 85.1%) were asked to express their interests for
each of 41 academic programs commonly provided by Italian
public universities. Finally, students were asked to express their
final choice, indicating which college major was their most
likely choice for the next year. In order to facilitate the com-
parison with the reviewed literature, we grouped the students’
expressed choice as follows: natural-science, applied-science,
social-science, health-science, arts & humanities, economic &
law, sport-science, military. Students who expressed more than
a single preference or left their choice blank, but intended go on
with their academic career, were grouped as undecided respon-
All participants were in the last year of the senior high school
and were surveyed about two months earlier than they ended
the school. This period of the year was chosen because it is
close to the deadline for applying to college and most students
already have a clear picture of the type of major they are will-
ing to matriculate in. The survey was administered during the
regular class hours, after that participants provided their in-
formed consent. During the completion time the class teacher
was waiting out of the room, to prevent from potential external
influences. The interviewer was in class and observed and
wrote down on a diary any unusual class behavior, which could
have been interfere with the survey completion. The survey
completion time was on average 30 minutes. As a part of the
survey, high-school students were filtered on a preliminary
question asking for whether they planned to continue their aca-
demic career at college.
The survey included: 1) questions assessing the behavioural
intention to enroll in different university faculties. It also in-
cludes a preliminary question asking for whether students in-
tend to continue their academic career at a college for the next
year and, in case of positive answer, which college major would
been their most likely choice. 2) The Big Five Questionnaire-60
(BFQ-60; Caprara, Schwartz, Capanna, Vecchione, & Barbara-
nelli, 2006), which is an abridged form of the extensively used
132-item Big Five Questionnaire (BFQ; (Caprara, Barbaranelli,
Borgogni, & Perugini, 1993). It was validated on large national
students and community samples (Barbaranelli & Caprara,
2000; Caprara et al., 1993; Caprara, Barbaranelli, & Livi, 1994),
as well as in cross-cultural research (Caprara, Barbaranelli,
Bermudez, Maslach, & Ruch, 2000).
The form used in this study contains 60 items, each asking
for “how you are like” a 5-point scale (1 = very false for me, 5
= very true for me). The items were purposefully selected from
the original BFQ as the best possible trade-off between ques-
tionnaire length and optimal psychometric properties (Caprara
et al., 1993). In particular, the reliability indexes assessed in the
present study for the five domain scales of Extraversion,
Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, and
Openness to Experience met with the psychometric standard for
short scales (i.e., .70, .69, .78, .83 and .72 with 12 items each,
The Big-Five factors were considered as independent vari-
ables in a set of discriminant function analyses aimed at pre-
dicting high-school students’ expressed choice for their per-
spective academic major. Since one’s academic choice is com-
plex and multi-determined, we controlled for gender and school
type differences, including these variable in the analysis in a
logically ordered way. We first entered personality variables,
then we added gender and finally we included school type in
the model. The comparison of statistically significant predictors
between models helped understanding whether the effect of
individual difference variables was spuriously inflated by gen-
der and attended high school type, whose effect on major
choice has been repeatedly documented (Worthington & Higgs,
2003; Malgwi et al., 2005; Niu & Tienda, 2008; Ma, 2009,
2011; Dickson, 2010).
Descriptive Analyses of College Major Choice
Students were filtered on a preliminary question asking for
whether they have planned to continue their academic career at
college. Those who answered positively to this question (N =
754, 85.1%) were asked for which college major would have
been their choice for the next year. The most preferred choices
were: economic-law (N = 216; 28.6%), applied-Science (N =
106; 14.1%), health-science (N = 97; 12.9%) and social-science
(N = 87; 11.5%) majors. Other majors were chosen by ap-
proximately one fourth of respondents as follows: humanities
(N = 57; 7.6%), natural-science (N = 53; 7.0%), art (N = 51;
6.8%), military-college (N = 20; 2.7%) and sport-science (N =
11; 1.5%). Although 56 respondents (6.3%) planned to continue
their academic career, they did not decided yet for any specific
major. Respondents’ expressed choices were significantly asso-
ciated with gender (χ2 = 97.58; df = 9; p < .001).
The inspection of standardized residuals revealed that there
were significantly more males expressing an applied-science or
a sport-science choice, and significantly more females express-
ing a social-science choice. Other expressed choices, albeit in
some cases were disproportionally chosen by males and fe-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 401
M. BALSAMO ET AL.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
perspective humanities students were indeed the most intro-
verted group and the most conscientious than other groups con-
sidered in this study. Perspective economic-law students were
the most extraverted and one of the less conscientious group.
Likewise, perspective military students were the least conscien-
tious group and one of the more extraverted. Perspective health
science students were almost as conscientious as humanities
students, but the two groups differed as it regards the higher
extraversion of health science students.
males, did not attain statistical significance. As to the effect of
attended school type on college major choice, a statistically
significant association (χ2 = 52.86; df = 9; p < .001) has been
detected with students in job preparing schools who expressed
less preferences for health-science and natural-science majors
than students in college preparing schools. Furthermore, stu-
dents in job preparing schools were also more frequent than
students in college preparing schools among those who did not
decided yet for any specific major. The effects of both these
variables was taken into account when addressing the issue of
whether personality traits predicted high-school student
Our descriptive analysis of college major choice reavealed an
association of this variable with both gender and high-school
type. Thus, a logical question to be answered is whether gender
and school type were counfounding factors in assessing the
relation of Extraversion and Conscientiousness with expressed
major choice. To rule out these alternative accounts, a second
discriminant function analysis was carried out to evaluate the
“unique” contribution of individual differences in personality
controlling for the disproportion of males and females in most
college major choice groups. Higher priority was given to gen-
der, relative to personality factors, in a sequential analysis.
Three discriminant functions (λ-s) were extracted (with a com-
bined χ2 = 150.32; df = 27; p < .001). After removal of the first
function λ1, there still was a statistical association between
groups and predictors (χ2 = 43.64; df = 16; p < .001). After
removal of the second function λ2, the analysis was no longer
significant (χ2 = 7.47; df = 7; p = .38). The two significant dis-
criminant functions accounted for 72% and 23% of the between
groups variability, whereas the third marginally significant
fuction accounted for about 4.7%. Consistent with our sequen-
tial strategy, who assigned higher priority to gender, the first
discriminant function summarized gender differences in college
major choices. The inspection of standardized coefficients re-
vealed that the second and the third function in this analysis
were mostly loaded by Extraversion and Conscientiousness,
thus resembling the first and the second function assessed in the
earlier analysis. These results indicated that gender differences
in college major choice subtracted from Conscientiousness but
not from Extraversion. The pattern of group differences on the
second and third discriminant functions resembled the pattern
has been described in earlier analysis, as shown in Figure 1.
Personality and Expressed College Major Choice
A stepwise discriminant function analysis was carried out
with Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emo-
tional Stability and Openness to Experience as predictors of
membership in economic-law, applied-science, health-science,
social-science, humanities, natural-science, art, military-college
and sport-science expressed college major choices. Three dis-
criminant functions (λ-s) were extracted (with a combined χ2 =
62.48; df = 27; p < .001). After removal of the first function λ1,
the analysis approached the conventional level of statistical
significance (χ2 = 25.05; df = 16; p = .07). After removal of the
second function λ2, the analysis was far away from statistical
significance. The first and the second discriminant functions
accounted for 60% and 28% of the between groups variance.
According to Tabachnick and Fidell (2006), the inspection of
the rotated loading matrix of correlations between predictors
and discriminant functions indicated that the first function was
mostly loaded by Extraversion, whereas the second function
was mostly loaded by Conscientiousness. As one can see from
Figure 1, the groups who were maximally separated on the first
discriminant function were students who expressed a humani-
ties major choice vs. those who expressed an economic-law
major choice. Differently, the groups who were maximally
separated on the second discriminant function were students
who expressed a humanities major choice vs. those who ex-
pressed a military major choice. In keeping with the literature,
Group centroids from stepwise discriminant function analysis of the Big Five computed on the expressed
college major choices.
M. BALSAMO ET AL.
A third discriminant function analysis was carried out to
evaluate the “unique” contribution of individual differences in
personality controlling also for the disproportion of different
school-types indifferent expressed choice groups. Higher prior-
ity was indeed given to gender and school type relative to per-
sonality factors. Four discriminant functions (λ-s) were ex-
tracted (with a combined χ2 = 199.42; df = 36; p < .001). After
removal of the first and the second function, there still was a
statistical association between groups and predictors (λ1 = .76;
χ2 = 87.42; df = 24; p < .001 and λ2 = .89; χ2 = 34.38; df = 14; p
< .05). After removal of the third function λ3, the analysis was
no longer significant (χ2 = 2.46; df = 6; p = .87). The three sig-
nificant discriminant functions accounted for 57%, 26% and
15% of the between groups variability. Like earlier analysis, the
first and the second discriminant functions summarized gender
differences and attended school type differences in college
major choices, while the third discriminant function was loaded
by Extraversion. Again, gender differences and school type
differences did not subtract from Extraversion.
The major findings of discriminant analyses might be sum-
marized in the following statements: 1) Extraversion and Con-
scientiousness were among the Big-Factors who differentiated
expressed college major choices of high school students, par-
ticularly separating perspective applied-science majors from
other groups of students; 2) controlling for the counfonding
effect of gender differences, which were associated with both
personality and expressed major choice, the effect of Extraver-
sion still was statistically significant, while the effect of Cosci-
entiousness only approached statistical significance; 3) control-
ling for both gender and attended school type, Extraversion was
the only personality factor accounting for expressed college
Consistent with well established vocational and personnel
psychology theories (e.g. Schneider et al., 1995; Holland, 1997),
it has been hypothesized that a specific academic environment
may actively attract and select some specific kind of perspec-
tive college students. Despite a complete answer to this ques-
tion would have required extensive controlled longitudinal
research over a long period of time, this study has been de-
signed to provide some preliminary evidence in support of our
hypothesis. It first has been looked at whether reliable person-
ality differences can be found among group of students who
expressed a deliberate college major choice for the next aca-
demic year, and then compared these differences to docu-
mented differences between groups of college students who
have already been exposed to or socialized to a specific college
As it concerns the first issue, preliminary evidence has been
found that perspective college students who expressed a delib-
erate major choice resulted to have specific personality profiles
depending on their stated preferred major. In addition, despite
the comparison of college student groups revealed a complex
pattern of individual differences in virtually all of the Big Five
factors, only individual differences in Extraversion and Con-
scientiousness seems to precede the period of college matricu-
lation. This finding not only suggests that some personality
traits encompassed into the Big Five factor model, preceded to
some extent one’s entry period in a specific academic environ-
ment, but also that there are some stable personality differences
in Extraversion and Conscientiousness, which are not likely to
be the effect of a socialization process within a specific social
As it concerns the consistency of pre-existent group differ-
ences with group differences well documented in the literature,
our study showed that lower Extraversion mostly differentiated
humanities and science perspective students from economic-
law, social science or art ones. In addition, if one looks at the
rank order of perspective college student groups along the in-
troversion-extraversion continuum (Figure 1), one can see that
there is a good degree of consistency with personality studies,
which revealed that actual humanities students were often
characterized by lower extraversion than other groups (De
Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996), in some cases even lower than sci-
ence students which have been traditionally portrayed as the
most introverted group of students (e.g., Hu & Gong, 1990).
The greater extraversion reported by perspective economic-law
students is another finding consistent with the literature inves-
tigating actual groups of college students (De Fruyt & Mer-
vielde, 1996; Lounsbury et al., 2009).
The second most important personality characteristics, sepa-
rating perspective college students, was Conscientiousness.
This finding is in keeping with one of the most comprehensive
reviews of Big Five in education, which stressed the importance
of this personality factor in predicting hard-working in school
and college environments (De Raad & Schouwenburg, 1996).
Again, perspective humanities and science students reported
higher ratings than other groups of perspective students. This
finding was consistent with the literature showing that science
students, regardless of whether enrolled in a natural or in an
applied major, were often portrayed has very careful and accu-
rate people (e.g., Kline & Lapham, 1992; De Fruyt & Mer-
vielde, 1996). However, in contrast with the reviewed literature,
our study revealed that humanities students, although intro-
verted were not described as more conscientious than other
groups (e.g., De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1996; Lievens et al. 2002).
Our findings were not only consistent to a large extent with
the literature, but also they were robust to confounding factors
which may both affect one’s college major choice as well as
one’s personality ratings (Worthington & Higgs, 2003; Malgwi
et al., 2005; Niu & Tienda, 2008; Ma, 2009, 2011; Dickson,
2010). For instance, the discriminant function loaded by Extra-
version still attained the conventional levels of statistical sig-
nificance when gender differences and attended school type
were controlled for in the analysis. Differently, the discriminant
function representing Conscientiousness in the analysis was no
longer statistically significant, after controlling for covariates,
and this may perhaps account for some inconsistency between
our study of perspective college students and studies of actual
college students as it concerns the presumed higher Conscien-
tiousness of humanities students.
Before concluding, it’s worth acknowledging the following
limitations to our findings. First of all, in order to provide an
ultimate answer to the question whether personality differences
preceded college socialization, an extensive controlled longitu-
dinal study is needed. Second, we investigated a behavioral
intention to enroll in a specific college major about six months
before the actual choice, thus it is possible that part of the stated
intentions might be different from the actual behavior. Finally,
we controlled for gender and attended high school type in data
analysis, while the effect of other possible confounding factors
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 403
M. BALSAMO ET AL.
(e.g., student’s parental occupation and socioeconomic status,
parental and peer influence, the student’s prior work experience,
perceived career prestige and self-employment opportunities,
reputation of the major, perceived quality of instruction, and
amount and type if promotional information) cannot be ruled
out (Leppel, Williams, & Waldauer, 2001; Porter & Umbach,
2006; Ma, 2009, 2011).
Taken together, this research provide a preliminary empirical
answer to the question whether some individual differences in
personality came first than socialization effect of the college
social environment shaping actual student personality profiles.
In other words, it seems plausible to assume that personality
domains had significant impact on the intention to enrol in a
specific university faculty (“selection” effects), and not the
contrary, that is the choice of a particular cultural-academic
context had systematic impact on the individual’s structure of
personality traits (“socialization” effects).
The results of the present study also underscore the utility of
an assessment of individual differences in personality in educa-
tional counseling already at the time of senior high school. It is
possible that these differences are associated with the outcome
in specific academic fields. Therefore, if replicated, the present
findings might be helpful from a practical standpoint for school
counseling psychologists faced with the issue of college major
choice. From a theoretical perspective, these results enhance the
current body of knowledge on the psychology of orientation
and provide new applications of the Big Five model (Goldberg,
1990; John, 1990) to the study of college student development.
The authors discussed the contents of this article together.
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