Thursday, November 20, 2008

Popular majors

Article: Division I athletes cluster in certain majors.

What I'd like to know, and what is missing from this article, is, "Do other students with similar academic qualifications end up in the same major?" We know that athletes, at least those in the "big" sports like football and basketball, have lower average SAT scores and GPAs than do their non-varsity peers. At many schools, sorting into majors occurs after students enter - students find they can't succeed in a certain program, or they have to apply for admission to competitive majors. At Vanderbilt, the sorting occurs even earlier; students must apply to the college they wish to study in (i.e., Peabody or Arts & Sciences) - and the students are not the same across colleges. It's easy to switch from a philosophy to a Spanish major, since they're in the same college, but harder to switch from Human and Organizational Development to engineering. It's likely that some clustering is simply due to the the difference in ability, not due to athletics per se.

This doesn't deny that inappropriately firm guidance or cheating don't occur, but clustering itself is not sufficient evidence to prove it.

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