Because of the prerequisites and the sequencing of science courses, it is extremely difficult for students to switch into a science major sophomore or junior year. Therefore, students who major in science generally need to matriculate with an interest in the discipline. To better understand what initially motivated students to consider science study and to situate their reasons for leaving in a larger context, freshwomen were queried about why they were interested in science when they entered college.
Not only do freshwomen enter college interested in science, most have been fairly well prepared, and many consider science an area of strength. It seems that matriculating women generally have some confidence in their science abilities. About 75% of the freshwomen indicated that they were at least adequately prepared by their high school courses for college classes.
The precollege contact that the students had with "real" science was also investigated. Freshwomen ('97, '98) were asked to describe their high school extracurricular science activities. 15.8%, reported that they had done scientific research either as an assistant in a research laboratory or as part of a research project such as the Westinghouse competition. 18.9% of the freshwomen had some exposure to non-research science, such as (volunteer) work in a doctors office, hospital, or museum. In explaining why they chose to apply for an internship, some WISP '97 freshwomen mentioned that their enjoyment of these initial contacts with science prompted them to seek another. The WISP '98 interns were specifically queried about their experiences doing mathematical and scientific research outside high school science labs. 23.7% had some type of previous research experience in high school.
The freshwomen survey asked students what they were planning to major in when they entered in the fall and what they presently planned to major in (freshman spring). Freshwomen ('97 and '98) responded:
15.6% of the freshwomen originally interested in a science major were no longer considering one at the end of their freshman year. The women who had left a science major were asked why. They responded:
At the beginning of winter term freshman year, the freshwomen were asked a related question--whether the science and math courses that they took fall term influenced their decision to continue or major in science. To this question, 49.1% responded that their classes had a negative impact on them; their explanations included: poor teaching, experiences in lab, class size, grades, the competitive atmosphere, their feeling of incompetence, boredom, pace of the class, and the workload. Fewer freshwomen (35.4%) noted that the courses had encouraged them to remain in science, and 27.9% said that they had no influence. The students' responses in the spring suggest less favorable attitudes toward courses; perhaps reflecting the passage of another term, differences in the populations that were sampled, or the different focus of the two questions. The fact that first year classes negatively affected almost 50% of the freshwomen is a cause for concern; while not all of these women will actually choose to leave the sciences, the reasons offered by the women who do (teaching, class size, grades, competence) corroborates the damaging impact of some science courses.
The difficulty for some freshwomen struggling in science stemmed in part from an adjustment to college courses. Many students wrote about the (often painful) realization that they needed to approach science courses differently in college than they had in high school; doing well in science courses in high school had required little work, but college science required more work, keeping up, and getting help from others to understand the much more difficult and abundant material. Acquiring study skills, learning what to expect in science courses, and learning how to approach the material and the exams often took students a few academic terms and, for many, seemed to present a significant stumbling block. Undoubtedly, some students leave science before they adapt to the new system. As the seniors' histories described, by sophomore or junior year women better understand what college science entails, which makes science much less intimidating. What advice do freshwomen have that might help freshwomen adjust? Freshwomen were asked at the end of the year what advice they would relay to an incoming freshwomen about science courses.
The second, highly influential factor that pervaded students' decisions about science classes and majors, was their career plans, specifically, medical school. 48.6% of the freshwomen responded that they were planning to pursue a career as a medical doctor. At graduation 35.3% of the seniors planned to attend medical school--half were entering in the fall, the other half intended to apply in the future.
3 The percentages here are based on the number of students who gave a response for why they were leaving, not the total number of freshwomen who responded to the survey. They include data for women who were transferring from one field of science to another.
OK, who missed me? Who made a New Year's resolution to save every column I've ever written before I retire this summer? Who lit a candle on the menorah and thought of Nathaniel Woolfe Sellyn? Who put a present under the tree for the P-Nut that went unclaimed? No one, huh? Yeah, well, I didn't think much about you either. Moving on, plenty of ground to cover in this column. The Tigers' winter teams returned to action January 23, and I've got predictions on how they will finish — and how a few other things will turn out also: A female will win the third American Idol, but the black guy won't last long in The Bachelorette. Both will garner less hype than My Big, Fat, Obnoxious Fiancée, which will make an instant celebrity out of some overweight schmuck — less than a month till the success of the show puts a supermodel on his arm. A national title for men's squash. A sweep of the individual titles for the increasingly hairy Yasser El Halaby '06, who won't drop a match all year. An Ivy League title for the women's side, which could do some damage nationally if their four freshwomen continue their early season success. An Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl, Pats win. Of course, by the time this column hits the Web, I could already be wrong on this one. In that case, Pats deserved to win. Whatever happened, they got robbed. Women's hockey, buoyed by the security of Megan Van Beusekom '04 between the pipes, will continue their stellar season, but fail to claim the E.C.A.C. crown. Men's hockey, despite the arrival of some long awaited firepower from its underclassmen, including top-scorer Grant Goeckner-Zoeller '07, will have to wait at least another season before even beginning to resemble a decent side. The team has allowed almost four goals a game this season, something that needs to change before the win column will. My pro hockey and basketball picks — Canadiens and Lakers, respectively — remain unchanged from the fall. What's now surprising is that the Habs look to be the smart pick out of that pair. N.B.A. M.V.P. will be Kevin Garnett. N.H.L. M.V.P., Jose Theodore. N.H.L. Rookie of the Year, Michael Ryder. N.B.A. Rookie of the Year... ah, forget it, you've probably never heard of the kid. He'll have the Cavs in the Finals by 2010. Men's volleyball, anchored by senior setter Jason "Smooth Criminal" Liljestrom '04, will see their young team grow up a little. The squad struggled at times last year, when the roster was dominated by underclassmen. This season, however, look for Liljestrom to lead them to a chance at the E.I.V.A. title. A star since his freshman year, the captain will not likely settle for less — and will almost certainly see the team that defeated his squad last year, perennial E.I.V.A. powerhouse Penn State, on the way to the top. Bill Walton will, sadly, suffer a horrible kitchen appliance accident that leaves him unable to speak or write on anything related to sports. The news is celebrated nationwide, as millions acknowledge that the big man has finally thrown it down. Men's basketball are already a good ways through their season, but the all-important stretch of Ivy League matches doesn't begin until the end of this month, when the Tigers will face Brown in Providence. That will mark the first of fourteen straight games against Ivy opponents. How will the team, currently 6-6, fare? Tough to tell. Harvard looks dismal — they surrendered almost 100 points to Sacred Heart on January 14 — but Cornell, Brown, Yale and Penn could all provide decent competition. That said, I'll be optimistic about basketball for once, and actually predict an Ivy title and trip to the tourney for this year's edition of the Tigers, who finally have a healthy Andre Logan '04. The nuclear war I predicted in the fall issue will not occur. We will be saved at the last moment by Pete Rose, who will then receive a Nobel Peace Prize — but no Hall of Fame berth, ever. Women's basketball are also well into their 2004 campaign, with less successful results. The Tigers stand at 3-10 overall, and are 0-1 within the Ivy League as of January 19. The problem so far has been offense for the women, who didn't put away a single field goal for the last eight minutes of their January 9 match-up with Penn. Although I don't foresee any great successes for the squad this year, I do think they will come together a little near the end of the year, and finish slightly above .500 within the Ivy League. And that's it! The spring's first column will feature a look at Princeton alumni currently in pro sports. 041b061a72