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40% of Science Majors Switch - How to Stick With a Challenging Major

Dec 28, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 2 Comments

According to the New York Times, 40% of students in majors such as engineering, technology, science, and math switch before they graduate. This is true in elite private universities, state schools, and community colleges.  There are many possible reasons—including social-life distractions and better grades in less challenging elective areas.

If you’re majoring in engineering, math, biology, or another science topic, you may definitely find your courses more difficult than those in the humanities. Answers in these topics are clear-cut—and you don’t get bonus points for personality or persuasive argument. In addition, most science topics require years of difficult calculus and other subjects before students get to a dissertation or senior project in an area they find fascinating.

Still, there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t drop out of a science degree program that could lead to a promising career.

Get the help you need

Students in Class

Don’t be one of the 40% who gives up.


If you’re struggling in class, make yourself a pest. Visit the professor during office hours to work out difficult problems. Talk to the grad students (if there are any) about one-on-one or group tutoring options. Or form a study group in your classes—chances are you’re not the only person having a hard time. Sometimes, especially in college, you have to be proactive in getting the help you need.

Get your priorities in order

Making it through a challenging major may require some sacrifices. Take a look at your life and see if you’re overcommitted. Are you involved in a campus job, a few social groups, a sports team, and other activities? If you are, you may have to quit one or more—at least during the most difficult semesters—to make time for studying. Take an honest look at your schedule, and decide which of your activities are the highest priority—and which can be picked up again later.

Don’t procrastinate

Procrastination is a way of life for many college students. But when you’re in a challenging major, you don’t have the luxury. Start research projects and papers early. Figure out how many pages of writing you need to do per day to make the deadline—and then do it. This is good preparation for life in the real world, where bosses may not be so willing to give you an extension. You might be frustrated seeing your friends having fun while you’re in the library studying, but you’ll be glad you didn’t procrastinate on the night before the big project is due—when your friends are staying up all night, stressing out, and you’re having a relaxing evening.

Have a quiet place to study

The place where you study makes a huge difference. If your roommate is always making noise in your room, head to the library. If you can’t concentrate in the library, go to a friend’s apartment. Do whatever you have to do to get away from distractions and concentrate on your studies. If that means studying off campus because you can’t focus on your schoolwork with your friends nearby, so be it. If that means buying some noise-canceling headphones to help you concentrate, do that too. Figure out what distracts you most when you’re studying, and try to get away from it.

College isn’t easy—particularly for those pursuing very challenging majors. Don’t be one of the 40% who gives up. Instead, get the help you need, make the sacrifices you need to make, and take the steps you need to in order to create a non-distracting study environment. If you do, you’re much more likely to pass with flying colors.


eslconsult Over a year ago

i-generation needs demand that any task have two components to make it attractive (interesting enough to do & learn) internet and interdependence.

Bvizzle Over a year ago

I switched and still wish I would have given more effort. This is all very good advice.

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