Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Norma Goonen

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Sarah Mathews

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rebekah Schulze

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


academic advisor, academic advising, exploratory, undecided, major choice

Date of Defense



Academic advisors are essential to the college experience (Filson & Whittington, 2013). They serve as students’ higher education guides and translators in addition to being their direct link to the institution. Given the pivotal role they serve in helping students navigate the myriad transitions encountered throughout their college career, tapping into their vast experience with students, parents, and administration provided a unique point of view that would not otherwise be possible. The purpose of this study was to explore academic advisors' understanding of the exploratory FTIC student experience at a Hispanic Serving Institution, which was chosen because of potential unique impacts on its non-white populations (Pascarella, 2006).

In this qualitative study, 11 current and former academic advisors who worked with exploratory students at Florida International University were interviewed using a semi-structured format. Student interviews were used for triangulation purposes. Once interviews were transcribed, thematic analysis was used to analyze the data for common themes.

The study found that participants saw a need to destigmatize the exploration process because it negatively impacts how students feel about being labeled exploratory. According to the advisors, many students are ashamed of identifying as exploratory. Advisors were vocal about their frustration with external pressures (e.g., excess credit, metrics, and department policies) affecting students’ progress and by students’ expression of the unfairness of being limited to 30 credits when that is not enough time to go through the exploration process. Moreover, this study revealed a lack of structured opportunities for exploratory students to meet other exploratory students. The advisors acknowledged that student-to-student connections are important to the undergraduate experience and can contribute to feeling a sense of belonging.

The findings of this study can also be used to develop training and professional development opportunities for academic advisors to enhance their knowledge of this complex student population, help students develop a positive exploratory identity, and produce resources that can improve the advising experience for exploratory students.






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