Introductory biology courses are full of bright, enthusiastic students who want to be doctors someday. But when they get their first exams back with scores below 80, their dreams of medical school start to fade. The New York Times article, “Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard),” reports that 40% of engineering and science majors switch to different disciplines or leave college altogether, and the rate of attrition from STEM shoots up to 20% when pre-med students are included (Drew, Nov. 4, 2011).
We are experiencing the pre-med blues first hand at the University of North Texas, where many beginning biology majors leave the department when it becomes clear they won’t have the grades to get accepted to medical school. A small step we have taken to break the pattern is to get career information to students in the first course of the biology major. The goal is to introduce students to the numerous careers they can enter with a bachelor or master degree in biology, so they realize they have options beyond a medical career. The information is being provided through the Careers in Biological Sciences section in the LibGuide for Biology for Science Majors I.
This semester I introduced the class page and career information to students at a library orientation. In the future, I would like to investigate integrating the career information into the course curriculum, and be able to assess if it has an impact on students’ knowledge of options in STEM careers. Is anyone else trying a similar tactic to retain STEM students? Chime in and share your experience.
Photo: “Failed Exam,” attributed to Alex Proimos, Sept. 14, 2009.