UL students, faculty discuss switching majors
With over 80 majors offered at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and four or five years to decide on one or two, students are faced with an ultimatum with each advising session — to take a new batch of major-related courses or change their career track.
Although students can change their majors at any time throughout the school semester, Academic Success Center Director Bette Harris said the office sees the most junior division students during advising.
“When they’re getting advised, that’s when they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be in chemical engineering; I want to be in something else.’ We have a bulk around this through the end of advising,” she said.
The average U.S. student changes his or her major three times throughout college, and 80 percent change their major at least once. Harris said this average is “on par” with UL Lafayette’s average. Harris said 40 to 50 percent of incoming freshmen change their majors after graduation.
According to ASC records, 60 percent of students who began school in 2011 have changed their majors at some point during their college careers. Of the students who graduated in spring 2015, 41 percent changed their majors once, and 70 percent of 2011 freshmen still in school have changed their majors.
“So many will apply, and they’ll put down whatever their mother and their grandmother wanted (them to major in), or they want to be a doctor,” said Harris. “Then they take their first biology course. It’s not that they can’t do it; they’re not allocating the time or they’re not putting in the effort.”
Of these students, 54 percent had one change of major. 46 percent have 2-5.
Harris said another factor is time and the student’s youth.
“A lot of them work, and a lot of them don’t know how to manage their time, so I would think those factors play in. Part of it’s that they’re 18 and immature; They’re not applying themselves,” she said.
Abbey Zaunbrecher, a freshman, has changed her major twice before settling on public relations. After realizing business classes were not quite her speed, she decided to visit ASC in Lee Hall.
“The hardest part was figuring out what you want to switch to,” said Zaunbrecher. “It’s one thing to know you are dissatisfied with your current major. It’s another to to figure out what you want your major to be instead.”
The ASC, which sees “an excess” of 2,000 junior division students each semester, helps students change majors and advises freshman students as well as oversees UNIV 100 classes.
“It gives them a little bit more realistic expectation of what’s required. We don’t want them to be lost in the shuffle,” said Harris.
So far, the ASC has seen 789 students — for whom Harris said time is the enemy.
“The longer you’re here, the less likely you are to get a degree,” Harris said.
Harris said another factor is expectations versus reality — namely the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors that have topped the list of most popular majors since the Great Recession of 2008.
“The big push I have seen is the STEM classes,” she said. “Those are the majors that are huge now, but this wasn’t the case a few years ago.”
According to a list Harris compiled, the most popular major at UL Lafayette during the fall was nursing, followed by biology, online nursing RN to BSN, mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering.
“All of those first five are STEM … you have eight out of the 12 are STEM classes; that’s been huge,” she said. “After the downturn in the economy, I think students think they can readily find a job easily in those majors.”
The top 12 majors comprise 52 percent of the student body; meanwhile, the nine majors with the fewest students only hold 3 percent.
The least popular majors were physics, insurance and risk management, organizational communication, anthropology, middle school education from fourth to eighth grade, modern languages, mathematics, economics and interior design. Although these majors have the fewest people enrolled, Harris said these majors still have a lot of people in the classes.
“Some of our small majors serve large bodies of students,” she said.
“The bottom line is if you come in and know what your major is and you’re very dedicated and you’re studying, not as many of those change their majors,” said Harris.