Senior Lauren Schmidt originally entered college with the intention of becoming a pharmacist or physician assistant. Those plans changed after her experience in Chemistry 101 during her first semester at UNC.
“I spent hours working on Mastering Chemistry,” she said. “I’m not good at chemistry, and I’m OK with admitting that.”
Schmidt decided to drop the class after the first exam, and even though she completed Biology 101 the following semester, she started looking for a different major.
And Schmidt is not alone. Jennifer Krumper, a lecturer in the chemistry department, said a number of other aspiring pre-health students switch majors because of the difficulty in introductory science courses such as Biology 101, Chemistry 101 and Chemistry 102.
“Many students who are interested in science and have the abilities end up not majoring in science because they have a discouraging experience after their first year,” she said.
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that about half of the students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields leave their majors before they complete a bachelor’s degree.
Of the students who left these programs, about half switched to a non-STEM major, while the other half left school altogether.
Kelly Hogan, a lecturer in biology, said she has seen the trend on a national level where there is increased interest but also decreased retention in STEM fields.
“Students come out of high school extremely excited about science, especially biology, but we lose a lot of them,” she said. “As an adviser I’ve had students switch their majors, but that’s not enough data or evidence to know what’s happening at UNC.”