The Community shares resources via Google Drive. Please share your ideas and resources about undecided students!  Documents shared on the listserv will also be uploaded to this drive.

Styles of Advising

  1. Prescriptive Advising:
    1. Prescriptive advising emphasizes the expertise of the academic advisor over the student, and encourages the advisor to provide the solution to the students’ situation.  Once students are able to discern a “best fit” major, a more prescriptive approach—in the right circumstances—may be more applicable.
    2. While prescriptive advising does have its place in the advisor’s toolkit, when working with exploratory students it is often difficult to give students a set or standard response to the exploration process.
  2. Developmental Advising
    1. Developmental advising emphasizes the partnership between the advisor and the student.  Students consult with the academic advisor along their academic journey of discovery.  Advisors provide information and insight into the mechanics of the university and assist the student with meeting the requirements and making the most of their academic journey.
    2. Exploratory advisors often see developmental advising as the preferred method of advising students, since it encourages students to be agents of their educational journey.  Students, however, may not always be prepared for this amount of agency upon entry into a university.  Especially with exploratory students, advisors need to be aware of the individual needs of each student and make adjustments to their style accordingly.
  3. Appreciative Advising
    1. Appreciative advising has its roots in positive psychology, and emphasizes using open-ended questions to engage with students.  The primary purpose of appreciative advising is to draw positive connections between the educational journey, students, and advisors with an importance placed on providing a positive service.
    2. Using open-ended, reflective questions in order to draw connections between the student and the potential majors can aid advisors in advising sessions.  Additional articles and practices in using appreciative advising techniques can be found on the NACADA clearinghouse (, and through the Appreciative Advising Commission.
  4. Intrusive (Proactive) Advising
    1. Intrusive advising emphasizes the actions taken by the academic advisor rather than the student to initiate advising sessions.
    2. Using intrusive advising when working with exploratory students can be a useful tool to engaging with students.  In some cases, students do not know of the services of academic advisors for the exploration process, or are unsure of when/how to address questions of major searching. 

Types of Exploratory Students

Ellis, K. (2014) Academic Advising Experiences of First-Year Undecided Students: A Qualitative Study. NACADA Journal,  34(2), 42-49.

“Upon review of 15 studies on types of undecided and decided students, Gordon (1998) categorized undecided students into four groups: tentatively undecided, developmentally undecided, seriously undecided, and chronically indecisive. Tentatively undecided student possess self-confidence and do not perceive barriers to their goals, and developmentally undecided student need to gather pertinent information and develop decision making skills; they may express interest in a variety of areas. Seriously undecided students usually present with relatively low self-esteem and limited knowledge of educational and occupational choices. The chronically indecisive students experience excessive anxiety that affects many parts of their lives. They also may not fully know educational and occupational opportunities and may seek approval from others when making a decision.”(p42)

The qualitative study discusses method and findings related to initial advising expectations based on their prior experience with guidance in high school. Responses were coded as good, bad, or neutral. This appeared to influence student comfort levels during college advising as well as the advisor's ability to be appropriately responsive to the student’s needs. Some students expected the advisor to do everything while another thought the advisor would ease their stress and check in with them as a person.

Clearinghouse Articles:


Clearinghouse and NACADA Resources:

Types of Exploratory Programs


There are amazing advisors doing great work for students who are in an undecided/exploratory major/program.  We asked our colleagues to share information about their program and to tell us about great things they are doing to help students.  To view this resource, click here  (Google Doc).

If you want to be listed on this resource, please click here and complete the Google Form.