Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Larry H. Ebbers

Second Advisor

Frankie S. Laanan


This research project investigated differences between transfer students choosing STEM- and non-STEM-related majors, determined the factors affecting a transfer student's choice of a STEM- or non-STEM-related major, and examined differences in academic adjustment between STEM and non-STEM students.

The results suggest differences in the background characteristics of students with non-STEM and those with STEM majors. Parental income of students with STEM majors was lower and students with STEM majors were primarily male. Students in STEM-related majors at Iowa State University (ISU) had more credits in calculus, chemistry, and environmental science. Furthermore, this academic preparation was a significant predictor of the transfer student's choice to enter a STEM-related major at ISU. An important distinction in this research was the predictive value of the L-TSQ variable community college course learning in a student's choice of a STEM-related major. Transfer students who reported their community college course experience had them fitting together different facts and thinking about practical applications were more likely to enter a STEM-related field at ISU.

An examination of students switching between non-STEM and STEM majors revealed a small group of students who initially entered as non-STEM but subsequently changed to STEM. Six out of the 10 students who switched from non-STEM to STEM majors chose the Management Information Systems major, yet they had not completed as many mathematics and science courses in their community college setting as had students with STEM majors. Social adjustment, transfer student experience, and experiences with community college faculty all point to a level of engagement supported and facilitated through direct interactions between transfer students and their educational environment. These factors contributed positively to the academic adjustment of STEM students.


Copyright Owner

Terry Burdell Gaalswyk



File Format


File Size

166 pages