A Qualitative Study of Self-Validation among First-year Undergraduate Students in STEM and Arts Programs


  • Ranuli De Silva
  • Tessa Hinkel
  • Alysha Mcdonald
  • Emily Pooran
  • Taylor Smiley
  • Namya Tandon


A positive foundational experience within one’s faculty is crucial for first-year undergraduate students, as lower self-validation is found to lead to dissatisfaction, lower self-confidence, lower academic success, and higher dropout rates (Harrison, 2007; Hurtado et al., 2011; Shapiro & Sax, 2011). This research focuses on the differences in self-validation among first-year undergraduate STEM and Arts students. It aims to explore if students are more validated in STEM or Arts faculties and what variables contribute to an unequal distribution of self-validation. Nine participants (four Arts and five STEM) were interviewed in-depth over the course of five months. The research finds that STEM students are more validated in comparison to Arts students due to variables such as greater perceived prestige and value, sense of community and belonging, and academic efficacy and confidence. Other variables are also explored. This research can be used to foster a strong sense of self-validation among first-year undergraduate students and in turn, a more positive academic and social university experience.






Thesis Papers