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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Freshmen in STEM majors switch more

Freshmen majoring in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math tend to stay enrolled at higher rates than their peers, but they are more likely to switch their majors.

A 2008 study found that the persistence rate of students in STEM fields was 81.5 percent, notably higher than the 76 percent of non-STEM majors. However, 30 percent of continuing STEM majors switched their field of study after their freshmen year, compared to 27 percent of non-STEM students.

Pre-nursing, pre-physiology and biology, all STEM fields, are among the top five majors for incoming UA freshmen and accounted for 15.6 percent of all freshmen in 2011. A little more than one-third of STEM freshmen graduate in STEM fields, compared to the more than half of non-STEM freshmen who graduate in the field they originally chose, according to Gail Burd, the UA’s vice provost for academic affairs.

Elly Krepp, a sophomore studying ecology and evolutionary biology, started as a chemistry major her freshman year but then switched to psychology with a minor in evolutionary biology, then back to ecology and evolutionary biology, all in order to avoid taking chemistry.

She attributes her switch to the list of unnecessary courses and said there should be more specialization in science majors instead of general science education.

“I feel like they should make it more achievable, it feels like more of a test to weed out the less scholastically inclined students,” Krepp said. “I feel like you should still be able to get the major you want even if you can’t do biochem(istry) if you’re not going to be using biochem in your profession.”

Krepp said she will try and complete the rest of her requirements over the summer, but if she doesn’t she can no longer continue with her major.

Catalina Ross, a senior studying ecology and evolutionary biology, said she also switched her major from organismal biology to avoid biochemistry. Organismal biology requires two semesters of physics and four semesters of chemistry.

Vince Colaianni, a sophomore studying politics, philosophy, economics and law, started as an anthropology liberal arts major, then switched to anthropology science to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. When Colaianni realized that chemistry was a requirement to earn the degree, he debated another switch, which led him to become a PPEL major. Colaianni said he wanted to avoid taking chemistry after having already taken Advanced Placement chemistry in high school. Colaianni, who lives with two engineering majors, said he constantly sees how much of a time commitment their major entails.

Colaianni also said his current major required less unnecessary and impractical courses.

“In the PPEL program it all feels pretty focused to the major … it felt more cohesive, that everything I was taking went together, and everything felt like it was pointing in a certain direction,” Colaianni said.

Dan Dokuchitz, a chemistry junior, said he doesn’t think freshmen realize the amount of work that goes into being a STEM major.

“It’s a lot harder to put in all the time and effort that requires a good grade, and it can be disheartening for some students who come to the university after being straight A students in high school and then realizing that they’re not doing as well as they thought they’d be,” Dokuchitz said.

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