OP-ED: Majors that are producing the smallest number of graduates and why

4 mins read

As an undergrad, you will inevitably hear some STEM majors drone on about how difficult their major is. So, it begs the question, what makes their major so hard? And what is STEM?

STEM majors encompass science, technology, and mathematics. More specifically, this umbrella term is inclusive of natural (biology, chemistry, physics), behavioral (neuroscience, psychology) ,and computer and information sciences. Some of the crucial benefits of majoring in chemistry or physics include training in critical thinking, learning, and analysis. There are a variety of possibilities for students with STEM degrees.  

Here at Queens College, The Knight News caught up with Dr. Cherice Evans, an associate professor of chemistry, to enlighten readers about the myths, truths, and applications of STEM majors, most notably chemistry.

While these majors attract many undergrads every year, many students fail out of the major and do not graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science degree.  Evans explained that it starts with the foundation STEM majors build in high school. During those 4 years in high school, teachers will make courses far too easy, as they’ll provide worksheets with fill-in-the-blanks and other methods that cause the student to develop weak study methods. Evans also commented that the pace of the semester can be rough for students fresh out of high school. As she explains it, “Because a semester tends to be 12-14 weeks long, STEM courses cover 1 chapter per week under the preconceived notion that students will be diligent- writing notes, reading/annotating chapters, creating study guides and asking questions.” Being over-coddled in high school inevitably leads to failing out in college.

According to Evans, another issue that arises is that the majority of students have not taken advanced placement courses, so the rigor of course material becomes overwhelming. Students tend to struggle with these subjects due to a lack of understanding of the material being covered and poor time management skills. 

Student involvement in STEM outside of class is also very prevalent. The QC Future Healers of America Club’s president and senior neuroscience major David Musheyev spoke with The Knight News.  Musheyev spoke highly of the opportunities and advantages the club has to offer for its students. He explained that networking and making connections can increase your odds of graduating. The Future Healers organization offers information sessions from various graduate schools (e.g. med, vet., etc.). Musheyev notes that these information sessions and meeting directly with admissions officers can help students gauge what they need to do to succeed.

Clearly, there’s a lot of factors that go into succeeding in STEM. One factor that seemingly goes unnoticed is the culture between the students in STEM. As an observer from the outside, it almost seems like there’s this hyper-competitiveness for STEM majors to get a career before 25. Students tend to rush through semesters, taking 5 or more classes at a time, all in an effort to complete things quickly, regardless of what grade they get, so long as they pass. This newly defined standard is one that probably contributes to STEM majors failing out.

Although STEM careers may sound daunting, the right amount of support, dedication, and application will ensure success. Whether you are a freshman at QC or a senior deciding upon a graduate program, there are communities and groups here to offer a helping hand as mentors and friends.

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