Recently I was told that students who enter college undeclared drop out at higher rates. Concerned, I began searching the literature and found that earlier studies had indicated that retention and graduation rates were higher among students who enter college with a major. However, recent studies have contradicted these findings and actually reveal that undeclared majors graduate at higher levels at the six year mark. Until COVID, I never wanted my students to apply undeclared, and almost all my students had some idea of what they wanted to study. Since COVID, however, I have seen a marked difference in my students, and it seems to be getting more pronounced each year. Many of them have no idea what interests them, and have done nothing to explore interests outside the classroom. I have several students who have informed me that they wish to major in engineering, but they haven't taken any engineering classes, joined the school Robotics Club, or tinkered on anything on their own. They like math, get good grades, so they think they should be engineers. But they are waiting for opportunities to be presented to them by a beneficent world. They are not actively engaged in shaping their own futures. This is what I am seeing over and over again. These are nice kids, they study hard and get good grades, but there's no drive, no passion in so many of them. The other day I asked a top student what he was looking for in a college and he replied, "Good people."
I cant make a college list from that.
And he can't make a future if he doesn't put himself out in the world and figure out what he wants to learn. When I ask students what they want in a college, nine out of ten don't mention academics. Interestingly enough, many of my students have expressed a desire to make a lot of money. I know the psychologists will be studying the effects of COVID for generations to come, and we all saw the recent reports on the drastic learning deficits caused by online classes. I think the passivity I'm seeing is every bit as frightening. Many students no longer feel a sense of agency or power over their lives, a year of living in their bedrooms took that away.
So this year I have more undecided majors (now called Exploratory, which you have to admit sounds much better) than ever before. These students have no idea what they want to study, what careers they want to pursue, or what dreams they should embrace. But they do know that they want to be well-paid for it.
Leave a Reply.
Masland Educational Consulting