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Pope on how majors get chosen

Natural experiment at the U.S. Military Academy provides look at student decision making

Andrew Van Dam writing for The Washington Post reports on the tenuous pretexts that make students pick their majors for college. Research by Faculty Associate Nolan Pope and his colleagues Richard Patterson and Aaron Feudo based on a data set collected from U.S. Military Academy cadets have allowed economists to answer questions related to what is causing a student pick one major over the other. They find that students who are assigned classes, randomly, in one of four required subjects are twice as likely to major in the assigned subject, suggesting that the timing of when students are assigned courses has a significant impact on college major choice. Pope comments: “Small and seemingly unimportant things can really have a large impact on people’s life decisions”.

In addition, the group of economists have found that students are approximately 10 percent less likely to major in a subject if they took a class at 7:30 a.m. Pope adds: “You think back on that class that you took in math, and you’re confusing the fact that you were tired while taking the class with that you didn’t like math. You’re confusing the state you were in with the quality of the major.”

See the complete The Washington Post article 

See the working paper by Nolen, et al.

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