Published by The Washington Post
How students weigh the economic payback of their degree is being reflected in their choice of major. Simply put, more students are majoring in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and business, and fewer in the humanities. Colleges, for instance, have seen a nearly 40 percent increase in the share of students majoring in the natural sciences since 1995.
In the next couple of weeks as deposits roll in, admissions officers will try to figure out why they lost students to competing schools. But finding the answer to that question is often a puzzle, said Richard Hesel, a principal with the Art & Science Group, a Baltimore admissions consulting firm that works with colleges. “For most kids and families, the college search is not going to be a rational process,” Hesel said. “There’s no checklist. That’s expecting too much.”
Often the decisions of 18-year-olds cannot be explained. Students make selections based on a fuzzy concept called “fit;” families on an equally fuzzy concept called “value.” Right now, neither the schools nor the students know until it is too late if they made the right choice. In an age when we are flooded with information, the process of picking a college seems to be getting more complicated, not easier.