Book by: Virginia Gordon
Review by: Cynthia L. Eggert
College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Social Sciences and Modern Languages
Eastern Oregon University
La Grande, OR

This book is a must-read for new professionals who want to better understand the varying needs of undecided students.  It would also be an excellent resource for seasoned advisors planning or restructuring programs to assist them.  This group of students poses many unique challenges to advising professionals, and Dr. Gordon does a fantastic job addressing these issues in a practical and methodical manner.

Written by a legend in the field of Academic Advising, Virginia Gordon, The Undecided College Student: An academic and career advising challenge, now in it’s 3rd edition, continues to provide the most comprehensive review of the existing research relating to this complex and growing subset of students.  The author  provides specific citations from the field of Academic Advising, and then augments these findings with theory-based data from other areas of inquiry to assist practitioners with serving undecided students.

Some specific theory-based concepts that I found quite helpful included components of the developmental approach e.g., students may be at a stage in the overall developmental continuum whereby they are not prepared to make career or major decisions.  Rather, these students may be more concerned with social issues, developing relationships, and exploring other aspects of their identities.  Gordon also cites John Krumboltz’s Social Learning Theory that indicates “students make educational and career decisions from the cumulative effects of learning experiences that are affected by various environmental circumstances and their cognitive and emotional reactions to these learning experiences and circumstances” (Gordon, 2007, p.69). Therefore, as practitioners we can best influence these exploring students by suggesting a wide array of coursework as well as varied out-of-the classroom experiences to assist them with finding a clear path for the future.

Overall, the most useful aspects of this text include first, the emerging view of undecided students as a complex, heterogeneous group.  Previous notions of exploratory students included a rather limited set of descriptors and strategies for application.  Secondly, an invaluable Chapter 5 that provides the reader r with  specific examples of effective strategies to employ for  advising  these students.  For example, page 163 includes some communication strategies that advisors  can utilize for fostering better interpersonal relationships with advisees.

While quite worthwhile, I found that the extensive detail and number of research citations was perhaps a bit arduous for the more seasoned professional.  However, less experienced academic advisors might find this volume of research helpful in finding both their voice in working with this group of students and assistance in the development of comprehensive programs and strategies to serve them.  While the exhaustive research citations are helpful in formulating a program’s theory and objectives, perhaps it could have  been truncated  to include references for further inquiry.  

This book is a powerful tool to assist administrators and academic advisors. It discusses the philosophical framework, as well as actual application for programs targeted to this large, attrition-heavy segment of our student populations.

The Undecided College Student:  An academic and career advising challenge (3rd edition).  (2007) Book by Virginia Gordon. Review by: Cynthia L. Eggert. Springfield, IL:  Charles C Thomas Publisher, LTD, 254 pp., $53.95, (hardback), ISBN # 978-0-398-07706-8
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