STEM subjects are hard, causing many students to drop out of them
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on a small study which found that
while math and science majors drew the most interest initially, not many students finished with degrees in those subjects. More students dropped out of math and science majors and fewer students switched into them than any other area of study, including professional programs, social sciences, humanities and business.
The survey results also showed that the students who dropped out didn’t do so because they discovered an unexpected amount of the work. In fact, students who expressed interest initially anticipated more work than other majors.
The students switched out because they were dissatisfied with their grades. “Students knew science was hard to begin with, but for a lot of them it turned out to be much worse than what they expected,” said Todd R. Stinebrickner, one of the paper’s authors. “What they didn’t expect is that even if they work hard, they still won’t do well.”
The good news is that STEM subjects draw a lot of initial interest (probably because STEM jobs generally pay well), but the bad news is that many students appear to be unprepared for college level math and science. The researchers’ recommendation for reducing this problem of students dropping out of STEM majors is
If more science graduates are desired, the findings suggest the importance of policies at younger ages that lead students to enter college better prepared to study science.
I do think that college preparation before college is very important — particularly for STEM — since science and engineering depend heavily on good math skills, and math skills build significantly from simpler math techniques which are (or should be) learned before college. In my case, I was blessed with very good math and science teachers — especially at my high school, which has a very strong advanced studies program for college prep. Through my high school’s advanced studies program I had an opportunity to take both single-variable and multi-variable calculus at the local university during my senior year of high school, though of course I could only do this because I had been well taught even before that. Many of my fellow MIT students similarly had an opportunity to take college level classes in high school, so I think it’s clear that students must prepare for STEM subjects even before getting to college.
Fortunately, colleges are more than willing to charge full tuition for easy and useless majors like Women’s and Gender Studies (where the answer to any question about who is responsible for any problem is always The Patriarchy). There’s no college prep or math necessary there, and we know this since feminists are utterly incapable of calculating the (nearly non-existent) “gender wage gap”.