Why Collaborate with Close Others When Choosing a College Major?

  •  Ines Schindler    
  •  Julia Dietrich    
  •  Cynthia Berg    


In spite of increasing research interest in relational aspects of making important life decisions, our knowledge on why, how, and to what effect close others are involved in decision making still is limited. We determined whom our 65 participants (students between 18 and 27 years; 54% women), in general, would like to collaborate with when making life choices that will shape their future identities. We further investigated under which conditions consulting with this generally preferred advisor (PA) was related to satisfaction with a specific real-life choice, namely, choosing a college major. This one-year prospective longitudinal study included repeated assessments as students chose a major, including monthly reports on the persons that had been involved in choosing a major. These were followed by qualitative and quantitative assessments of evaluations of one’s PA as collaborator. Our findings revealed that involvement of one’s PA during major choice was related to greater indecision regarding one’s choice, but not to the PA’s perceived quality. Involvement of the PA further was related to greater choice satisfaction only when the PA was perceived as highly familiar with the student, experienced in collaborating with him or her, and helpful in optimizing decisions. Our findings suggest that close others can be an important resource for making satisfactory life choices that could also be drawn upon in professional counseling contexts.

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