Though there is a deep literature on factors that predict college attendance and on the effects of college attendance on student development, there has been very little research on what education actually means to students themselves. This study was conducted to examine whether materialism, intrinsic aspirations, and the search for meaning in life predicted ten meanings that students associate with their education: Career, Independence, Future, Learning, Self, Next Step, Social, World, Stress, and Escape. Multiple regression analyses indicated that students who were high on materialism viewed their education as the opportunity to gain independence, a time to establish relationships, and as a source of stress. Intrinsic aspirations emerged as an especially important predictor variable. Individuals high on intrinsic aspirations were more likely to see education as a time for career preparation, gaining independence, exploring future life directions, learning, engaging in personal growth, increasing social connections, and learning skills to make a difference in the world, but they were less likely to view education as an escape from future responsibilities. As expected, the findings also revealed that individuals who sought meaning in life viewed education as a way to prove independence, explore life directions, engage in personal growth, establish relationships, learn skills that will help change the world, and escape future responsibilities. Currently, we are designing a study for the fall that will examine whether the need for cognition and religion affect the meanings that students’ make of their education.
Donna Henderson-King, Psychology
Amanda presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference April 29-May 1, 2010 in Chicago, IL.