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Survey of Major Changers:. Why students change their majors, and what they think about major changing process. Presentation for Associate Deans Dr. Judy Shoemaker Office of Research and Evaluation Division of Undergraduate Education October 15, 2007. Major Changers.

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Survey of Major Changers:

Why students change their majors, and what they think about major changing process

Presentation for Associate Deans

Dr. Judy Shoemaker

Office of Research and Evaluation

Division of Undergraduate Education

October 15, 2007


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Major Changers

  • Definition: Students who change majors from one school to another

  • How many students change majors?

    • Excluding U/U students, almost two-fifths (39%) of new freshmen graduate in a different school

    • Including U/U students, just over half (54%) of new freshmen will graduate in a different school

  • Academic units that keep the most majors from entry to graduation:

    • Social Ecology (69%)

    • ICS (68%)

    • Social Sciences (66%)

Data from F98 and F96 entering freshmen classes.


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Survey of Major Changers

  • Requested by Dean Sharon Salinger

  • 4 research questions

    • Why do students change majors?

    • How do students experience the major change process?

    • What resources do students use during the change process?

    • What suggestions do students have for improving the process?


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Methods

  • Pilot survey (random sample of students, entered as new freshmen, all open-ended items)

  • Final survey of all undergraduate students enrolled in S07, entered as new freshmen, changed major/school, not U/U, did not take pilot survey ( n = 1,892)

  • 584 valid responses (31% response rate)


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Survey Contents

  • Content:

    • Why do students change their majors?

      • Selecting the first major

      • Leaving the first major

      • Selecting the new

    • What was the major changing experience like?

    • What campus resources did students use?

    • How can the process be improved?

  • Both closed-ended and open-ended survey items


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Reasons for selecting a major when they first applied to UCI

  • 64% sounded interesting

  • 46% did well in that subject in high school

  • 46% lead to a high paying job

  • 38% would prepare me for graduate school

  • 31% would provide a well-rounded education

  • 30% recommended by parents, family, friends

% very important


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How much did you know about your 1st major?

  • 15% nothing

  • 69% something

  • 16% a lot


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Comments

  • It led towards a career I thought I wanted at the time.

  • My dad told me to take it (computer programming).

  • I honestly had no idea about any majors. It was difficult without knowing what the classes would be like.

  • I had a high school course in electronics that I loved and thought it would be relatively the same.

  • UCI is known for bio, so I chose the University’s best major.


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Why did you leave your 1st major?

  • 54% didn’t like the courses

  • 44% had academic difficulties

  • 43% did not match career interests

  • 31% found courses harder than expected

  • 20% major took up too much time

  • 19% hard to get to knowfaculty

% very important. Students could select more than one response.


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Comments

  • It was too competitive with a negative atmosphere amongst students and professors.

  • I thought the major was something completely different before I came to UCI.

  • Classes were extremely boring.

  • The ____ dept did not seem to care and offered me no help.

  • I realized I didn’t want to do this for a living.

  • O Chem was hard.


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Why did you select your new major?

  • 75% courses were more interesting

  • 68% better match to career interests

  • 41% will prepare me better for graduate school

  • 36% provides more time to pursue other interests

  • 13% courses easier

% very important. Students could select more than one response.


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Comments

  • The faculty was amazingly personable and considerate.

  • It challenged me intellectually.

  • Loved the subject matter.

  • I did well in my new major classes and they were a lot more interesting.

  • I could see myself pursuing a career in this field.

  • I had more time and knew more of what I really wanted to do with my life.

  • Smaller and more intimate classes.


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Major Changing Process

  • How soon did you start thinking about another major?

    • 15% before I started at UCI

    • 57% during my first year

    • 25% during my second year

  • How long did the process take?

    • 45% less than one quarter

    • 43% 1-3 quarters

    • 12% more than 3 quarters


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Most Helpful Resources

  • 39% Academic advisor in new major

  • 37% UCI Catalogue

  • 33% Change of Major Web site

  • 14% Academic advisor in former major

  • 1% Career Center workshop

% used it and found it very helpful


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Opinions regarding the process

  • 91% information needed was readily available

  • 87% academic advisors in new major helpful

  • 80% Change of Major web site helpful

  • 79% easy to see counselor (appt/walk in)

  • 61% academic advisors in former major helpful

  • 33% process took too long

  • 17% had a hard time meeting course requirements

  • 13% had a hard time meeting GPA requirement

% agree or strongly agree


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Consider 3 Options

  • Students would be encouraged to enter UCI without declaring a major, take a variety of courses in the first two years, and then declare a major at the end of the second year.

  • Students wanting to change majors would need to meet only 2 requirements: 2.00 GPA and C or better in prerequisite courses

  • Students would participate in a common first-year advising program, with school-based advising after students declared a major.


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How they voted:

Survey item: Would this option have served you better during the

major-changing process? Would it be worse, the same or better?


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Option A - Pro

  • I think students in the first two years should take a variety of courses for breadth, because I think a lot of 18/19 year olds do not have a clue what they really want to study.

  • I greatly regret not taking many of the classes I was interested in earlier on, as I was too narrowly focused on my Biology requirements to give heed to anything outside the sciences.


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Option A - Con

  • I believe declaring a major as early as possible is the best way to graduate within four years. If the plan is to waste the first two years of college with no major how is anyone expected to get on with their life?

  • The first alternative is foolish for folks that know what they want to do. It would waste their time and money taking classes they don’t need or want to take.


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Option B - Pro

  • Minimizing the requirements would help out a great deal. My GPA was very low and I have very few majors to choose from.

  • If they are not enjoying classes for their current major, it can have a negative effect on their GPA, which under the current circumstances make it difficult to change to a major that better serves them.


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Option B - Con

  • The [current] requirements and strict rules of changing majors, ensures that there aren’t any flakes entering into that major.

  • I don’t think the second alternative would be helpful because it seems like it could lead to an excessive amount of changing majors. I think it is a good idea to take more than one prerequisite course in the major before switching.


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Option C - Pro

  • I think it would be very helpful to have general academic counselors that students could go to with questions instead of having to go from one office to another.

  • When you finally are forced to change your major and go to your former major school for help on setting up your schedule to meet pre-requisites for the new major, the academic advisor is not any help at all because they only know the protocol for their specific school.

  • I believe that a first-year advising program would be a great idea, this would clear up a lot of hazy or incomplete information that we are constantly given.


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Option C - Con

  • There are enough advisors to speak with so a new advising program won’t make any difference.

  • The third option seems like it takes the decision farther out of the student’s hands, and wastes time for the majority of students who do not need or wish to switch majors.


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Recommendations:Better Information

  • Provide more detailed descriptions of majors and courses.

  • Expand catalog information.

  • Provide a phone number for more information.

  • Provide more advising materials, change of major instructions, and advice online.

  • Have upperclassmen available to answer questions about the major and the courses involved.

  • Provide courses and workshops to review all majors.

Based on an analysis of student comments.


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Recommendations:Curricular Changes

  • While changing majors, students should be exempt from taking courses in the old major.

  • Drop ‘majors only’ restrictions since majors often fill up required courses.

  • Don’t require mandatory courses for U/U students.

  • Expand enrollments in selective majors.

  • Ensure the program schedules allow electives in first and second years.

These are general categories based on multiple student comments.


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Recommendations:Academic Advising

  • Academic advisors should be better informed about requirements in other majors.

  • Academic advisors should be better informed about career options directly related to majors.

  • Make it easier to get an appointment with an academic advisor, especially with advisors in new major.

  • Provide more sympathetic, respectful, and supportive academic advisors.

Based on an analysis of student comments.


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Recommendations:Academic Advising (cont.)

  • Academic advising offices should hold quarterly meetings with students wanting to change into that school.

  • Students should be required to meet with academic advisors at least once during the first year.

  • There should be a separate counselor in each office especially for students who want to change majors.

Based on an analysis of student comments.


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How to dispel myths about majors (from DUE discussion)

  • You don’t have to be a Bio major to go to medical school.

  • Pick a major you love. For most jobs, employers want to know you graduated, but not what your major was.

  • You CAN change your major in summer (with a few exceptions).

  • Coming in without a major is okay. You will still be able to graduate in 4 years.

  • It’s okay to change your major. About half of UCI students change from their first major.


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Next Steps

  • Students’ comments to associate deans

  • Follow-up with responses from associate deans

Questions? Comments?


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