Why science majors change their minds

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-06-2009
Why science majors change their minds
30
Sat, 11-05-2011 - 11:36am
Interesting NYT piece today. Forty percent of science and engineering majors don't stick to it. When you exclude pre-med students from that total, it goes up to 60 percent.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/education/edlife/why-science-majors-change-their-mind-its-just-so-darn-hard.html?_r=1&hp

Apparently it's even worse at top-ranked schools. There's a Notre Dame grad in the story who had an 800 math SAT score (1500-plus overall) who bailed out of engineering.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Sat, 11-05-2011 - 3:07pm
So??? 40% drop out rate is OK.It is usually about 33%. It depends on the university,of course. My DS's university has the highest grad rate in this country. For engineering and for all over degrees., It's over 88% (I think it is 90%) but it has one the highest entrance requirements and it has programs in place to help kids struggling in first year. Some of the other universities, the second tier ones, have a much higher drop out rate.
Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Sat, 11-05-2011 - 5:12pm
I can't say I'm surprised. Some get it in their heads that science and engineering majors lead to big dollar jobs (not in my case!), or at least 'good' jobs compared to others just getting out of school, but then don't realize or don't want to deal with the fact that that's because there's so much work that goes into it (and that you have to continue doing for the rest of your life). To me, I went into it because I enjoyed it, and I always had a lot of work in school (including HS), but I know many who just didn't stick it out.

Sue
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-19-2006
Sat, 11-05-2011 - 8:50pm
I have noticed over the past 10 years or so that many kids seem to start college in an engineering program and then transfer to something else. I really don't understand it. When I was in college I didn't know anyone that dropped out of engineering. All of my friends were science majors and I can't think of any that switched out of the sciences and very few that even changed their majors within the sciences. I am not talking about easy majors either. Several majored in engineering (EE, CompE, Ie, civil, mechanical) a couple in comp sci, one in chemistry, one in food science, one in pre-vet, and one in pre-med. They all graduated in 4 years. Did I have weird friends or have things changed a lot since the early 1980's? I went to a pretty exclusive school so according to the article I should have seen even more people switch from one major to another. I don't know. I just hope my son does okay in his engineering program and sticks it out.

Robin
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-1999
Sat, 11-05-2011 - 11:42pm

I think it's more that kids arent prepared. They are encouraged to follow their dreams when they havent got a clue what that is. Being a doctor is a big dream, 18 year olds just have no clue about what it all entails. HS is much more different than University. It is culture shock for sure, for starters. They've never dealt with profs who are more interested in doing their research than teaching. They have to pull up their socks, get a tutor or research how to learn the material and pass the class. Then there's the whole party aspect. Science and Math is dry material....like sawdust dry. I keep telling my guys they have to put in the time in order to actually take what they really want to take. Lots of baloney classes. It's called sucking it up and going after what you want. In real life, not everyone does that.....so why would it be any different in a post secondary program? My oldest son started in classes of 300 students. He's in his 4th year and he's down to 8-12 students per class. He said that of the 300 students, half went home as Christmas graduates the first semester of his first year. Expensive party.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-25-2006
Sun, 11-06-2011 - 9:10am

I agree with you, that many switch because they aren't prepared.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Sun, 11-06-2011 - 9:17am

<<<>> If a student thinks that, they should not be in science or engineering. Because science is NOT dry. It is fascinating,interesting and fun to learn.And to be a excellent doctor or engineer, you need a very fundamental interest and fascinating about how the world works.

It is very normal for students to change their major. I did and I still graduated on time. Students have no idea what they really want to do in high school. How can they? They think, "I am going to be a doctor or an engineer or a whatever" and then they find out that they just don't get physics or differential equations is Greek to them". Such is life. They move on to something they are better suited for. Because even working hard and doing your work does not mean you will do well.

Many of my colleagues changed paths along their way and they still are. Everything they have done adds to their knowledge base; learning is never wasted.

Universities/colleges have two ways to cull the mass of kids in science majors and engineering programs. They have to because the economy can not handle all these science graduates and engineers. What are we going to do with all these Bio Majors or Chem Majors? They cannot all go to grad school. and where are they going to find work?

They either make it very difficult to get into the program or increase the level in university. Because we want the best engineers and the best science graduates, not just lots of engineers and science graduates.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-1999
Sun, 11-06-2011 - 4:30pm
Oh totally agree that the Universities cull the students. I keep telling my kids that if they have to see their doctor, they want one who knows what he/she is talking about. As for there not being enough positions for doctors or engineers, we are sooooo short of these kinds of people where I live, that simply does not apply here. We are fortunate in our community where we have two doctors here. But it isnt uncommon for people to travel two hours to actually see a doctor and not necessarily theirs. Hospital emergency rooms are packed with people waiting to see a doctor because they dont have one and cant get into a clinic. Many of these kids who change what they want to do, go into teaching and graduate with no work. I know of graduates who have been working as temps for as long as 4-5 years and have trouble landing any teaching job. As for engineers, we are in the building industry and where we are, there simply arent enough engineers to go around. There's up to a six month wait to get an engineer to even look at building specs for permits. So it really depends on where you live.
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Sun, 11-06-2011 - 5:32pm
<<>> and <<< As for engineers...where we are, there simply arent enough engineers to go around>>> This is the problem in the US, also. More psychology, criminal justice (from growing up watching CSI), and English education grads than you can shake a stick at, with NO industry jobs, and 4000 UNfilled engineering jobs in structural, electrical, robotics, computers, etc.
So those engineering jobs go to China and India--SIX jobs outsourced for every 1 here.
And to I-Tea, altho Canada's UNemployment of 7.3% isn't as dire as our 9%, things aren't pretty in Canada either.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Mon, 11-07-2011 - 1:44pm

Well, there are many unemployed engineers now. When DD graduated, I think only about half of her class had jobs. It took over a year for one of her friends to land a job. The kids in chemical engineering & geology found jobs but not as many as the mech & EE engineers.

My DD is in grad school; she knew she had no choice. It was either be unemployed or go to grad school. My DS is graduating this year-it is grad school for him as well.

In Canada, it takes 5 years after a student graduates with their engineering degree, to become an engineer. They have to work an "intern" under an Professional Engineer before they can legally look at building plans and sign them etc..You can not legally call yourself an engineer unless you have graduated from an accredited degree program in engineering (audited and approved by the Association of Professional Engineers) and have your P.Eng. Fewer engineers are getting their P.Eng; it takes $$ and at least 5 years post graduation. And I have heard that the exam is not easy.

Companies,because of the downturn in the economy, are not hiring the young people as much as before. Less "interns" and the senior engineers are too busy with mundane things. And they are cutting back on the number of engineers on staff. I know the company I work for (all staffed by engineers, scientists and techs) has not hired any new staff for a couple of years.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Mon, 11-07-2011 - 2:08pm

<<<>>>

It is about 15% for the 19 to 24 age bracket. Engineering jobs are not that plentiful here; I wish there were. I would not worry so much about my kids' chances of getting jobs after they graduate. All the high tech companies I know are not hiring and are,instead, laying off engineers.

Now, I do know a few of my friends/colleagues who have gone down to the US after being recruited by US companies.

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