Science is hard. There’s no doubt about it. Especially when you’re crammed into a lecture hall of 300+ students, and you’re all fighting to be above the grade curve. So why bother sticking with a major that you’re struggling with when you see other liberal arts majors getting higher grades for less the work?
Christopher Drew argues that it’s the combination of the competitive atmosphere of STEM classes and the high rewards of liberal arts classes that pulls students away from science majors. He argues that fostering an early interest in the sciences gets students on the right track but that it is necessary to perpetuate that interest throughout college. Drew suggests that colleges revamp their science programs and add in more hands-on activities to keep students interested in their major.
To Drew I say: quality over quantity. Students who stick with their major are students who are dedicated, hardworking, and passionate. They are the types of students that you want to have in the work force. Introductory science classes are challenging for a reason. They filter out students not willing to put in the effort, not students without the ability to do well. Any student can get a good grade in a difficult class if they utilize all their resources and work hard enough. It’s not about whether or not you’re “programmed” for your major, but rather if you have the desire to master the material.
I’m a sophomore at UMass Amherst majoring in biology/psychology. It’s only my third semester here and already I am feeling the wear a tear from my major. Hard classes. Difficult tests. Hours spent in lab. Sometimes I wonder why I would ever purposefully put myself through this. Watching other students hang out on the week days while I’m over at the next table cramming for my organic chemistry, cell & molecular bio and behavioral neuroscience exams for the next week. Yet I continue to pursue my major anyways. Does that make me crazy? No. For me, it is the challenge and competition that keeps me motivated to succeed. I feel more satisfaction from doing well in a difficult class than if I got an A in an easier class.
I agree with Drew that colleges should revamp their science programs to incorporate more hands-on learning. But before we go blaming it all on the schools, I think we should lay some of the blame on students. Good study skills are essential to doing well in class. Cramming the night before an exam or even a couple days ahead of time isn’t enough. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t ever been guilty of doing this. Students are often so concerned with getting a good grade that they neglect to remember that the whole purpose of going to school is to learn the material not to get that A. So before we go revamp all our programs, we should reconsider the grading system and whether a good grade means that you’ve mastered the material or that you’ve just point-blank memorized what you need to know.
An analysis of “Why Science Majors Change Their Mind” by Christopher Drew.