NEW YORK — Why are some majors more popular than others with undergraduates? Is it the perception that they lead to good (well paying) jobs? Are certain fields naturally more attractive to new undergraduates? Will students respond to tuition incentives to pick (or bypass) some fields?
Maybe it’s much more simple: Undergraduates are significantly more likely to major in a field if they have an inspiring and caring faculty member in their introduction to the field. And they are equally likely to write off a field based on a single negative experience with a professor.
Those are the findings of a paper presented here during a session at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association by Christopher G. Takacs, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Chicago, and Daniel F. Chambliss, a professor of sociology at Hamilton College. The paper is one part of How College Works, their forthcoming book from Harvard University Press.