CUP Undergraduate Research

Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2018

Document Type



College of Arts & Sciences



Degree Name

Psychology, BA

First Advisor

Reed Mueller, Ph.D.


Uncertainty is arguably a universal human experience that transcends culture. One threat to existential meaning identified in the literature was the experience of personal uncertainty, defined as either an aversive feeling experienced when one feels uncertain about the self or as a neutral cognitive state created when an individual is unable to determine meaning, categorize or assign value to an event, or predict outcomes, with positive or negative reactions influenced by individual perception. Thus far, literature regarding uncertainty has focused disproportionately on medical uncertainty while studies of uncertainty in college students have yielded mixed results. The current study sought to answer the question, “How do undergraduate college students experience living with existential uncertainty regarding where to go next after university (i.e., career, higher education, or exploration)?” Utilizing Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), a single-subject case study of a Caucasian, female student with a declared major attending Concordia University in Portland, Oregon was conducted. Primary themes found in this study were money, family, and anxiety reported to fall under the higherorder theme of external influences. This theme was found to interact with the subtheme of intrapersonal considerations to shape student experience of uncertainty. Study results were compared against theoretical understandings of uncertainty reported in the literature and implications for career counselors were discussed. Strengths and limitations of the present study were then explored.

Included in

Psychology Commons