Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2023

Thesis Director

Jon K. Coleman

Thesis Committee Member

Roberta Y. Kingery

Thesis Committee Member

Tom Michael


The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how collegiate student-athletes experience the decision-making process for selecting their academic major at a midsize, Division I university in the Midwest. With four participants from four different sports, this study’s results centered around four research questions: what was most important to the student-athlete when selecting a major, what challenges they ran into, what role others played in their decision-making process, and how the student-athletes’ athletic identity manifested in their decision-making for their major.

Results of this study indicated that student-athletes value the practical application to a career that their major can provide for them and struggle with how their major can fit into their limited time as a student-athlete. In addition, family was influential to student-athletes in the decision-making process, but ultimately, participants demonstrated that they go through the development described in Baxter-Magolda’s theory of self-authorship during college and make their decision for themselves. Student-athletes were found to have differing ties to their athletic identity, which means that there is not a clear-cut answer as to which type of major a student-athlete may lean towards choosing. Recommendations for future research and recommendations for higher education professionals are provided.