What Students Want

Inside Higher Ed takes a look today at a new survey about how students choose colleges. They make an effort to make the results sound surprising, but it's really about what I'd expect:

A survey of 600 students who scored over 1100 on the SAT, half of whom scored at least 1300, found that campus visits, parents -- moms more than dads -- word of mouth, and college Web sites are more influential information sources for college-bound students than rankings, guidance counselors, and teachers.

The report, conducted by Lipman Hearne, a marketing firm with many colleges as clients, found that the single most important factor for high-fliers in deciding where to apply was the presence of a particular program of study. About a quarter of all the students surveyed listed "a specific program of study" as the most important influence.

That certainly fits with my experience, and what I know from talking to prospective students here at Union. I was aware of the US News rankings back when I was applying to college, but it wasn't a huge factor. I'm consistently amazed at how much importance college administrators place on those rankings as a result-- other than geography, it's the factor we have the least control over, and it's not actually that big a factor in student decisions.

Appropriately enough, today is an Accepted Students Day here, so in addition to my usual back-to-back classes, I get to go have lunch with a future history major (lunch is a buffet deal, and faculty are invited to sit with prospective students and their parents to talk up the school and answer questions. I have an uncanny gift for sitting down at tables occupied by budding humanists...). You'll get some new content later, thanks to the wonders of scheduled posting, but between classes, phone tag, and the annual dog-and-pony show, I'm likely to be curled up in a little ball whimpering by 3:00 this afternoon...

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Time to practice your physics proselytising skills -- tell an aspiring English major that he/she is in training to be a waiter/waitress. Then suggest the career opps available to science majors.

Good luck.

And, of course, if the a talk is reasonably successful, the aspiring English major will check things out, and go into econ/business . Physics isn't that employable, either.

If the aspiring English major really *is* an aspiring English major, then he or she should major in English....

I'd like to see more people majoring in Physics, but I think it more important that people major in what they want to. The saddest thing to me are the number of people who are pre-meds either because they want the money, or because that's what their parents would want to do. Likewise, the number of people who major in econ because it's "useful". You can get into an MBA program with any undergraduate major. In undergraduate school, you should pursue what you love.

All of that being said... I'd like to see more Physics majors. Not necessarily going on to grad school, for we have plenty of those (although we need the male/female ratio in grad school to balance out). But I'd like to see people major in Physics who plan to teach high school, go into politics or law, or generally go out and be in society.

-Rob