Academic and Social Expectations of Incoming College Students

The Journal of College Orientation, Transition, and Retention / May 2020

Students’ beliefs about themselves and their abilities shape their firstsemester college experience. This article examines the mindset of incoming college students, with particular focus on their beliefs about their intelligence, need for cognition, and goal orientation in both the academic and social domains. In order to examine some of the ways in which students operationalize their beliefs, we also asked students (N = 332) to rate their likely reactions to a variety of hypothetical academic and social situations they might encounter during their first year of college. The goal was to expand the conversation about the “college-ready” student mindset and develop a more accurate picture of the various beliefs that students have when they enter college. In both the academic and social domains, participants rated the mindset items toward a growth perspective, the cognition items toward higher enjoyment of thinking, and the goal orientation items toward a preference for minimizing trouble and mistakes. The results also indicated significant ethnicity, gender, and ACT score differences across the major measures, but not first-generational status differences. These results suggest that student support programming should take into consideration variations in student mindset.