Truth about majoring in a science at Yale?

<p>Yale</a> Daily News - Part 2 of 2: Many science majors don?t last four years - Comments</p>

<p>Someone posted this link in another thread on this board. I read it, and as a prospective science (bio, whether MCDB or EEB) - maybe even biomedical engineering - major entering this fall, I'm starting to freak myself out. Are the horrible things mentioned up there about intro courses/science professors/labs really true? Are there science majors/pre-med students on this board who genuinely have enjoyed their science experience at Yale? Would I have to be some kind of genius/workaholic to do really well? please advise...</p>

<p>Currently freaking out as well ...</p>

<p>I entered Yale planning on majoring in Chem. Frankly I was wooed away by the offerings in other departments. My desire to study science wasn't as strong as my newly found desire to study the other offerings at Yale. I didn't find the coursework to be that onerous. Plus lots of kids enter yale with "pre med" on the mind and find out that they really don't want to do it after all. Our joke about Chem 115 was that at the end of the first semester, more Psych majors were produced. Sad but true.</p>

<p>About not being able to pursue other things: that's a double edged sword, no? If you were at JHU or Caltech or MIT, how many of those students would be wooed away by wanting to do more theater (the example of Cleo Handler) ? Think about it. The very fact is that Yale has the enormous potential to pull people from their 17-18 year old declaration of studying sciences or becoming a doctor -- is that a bad thing? Don't you want to attend a college that may challenge your world views to the core and possibly alter your entire life's trajectory?</p>

<p>Funny thing is that many of my peers who dropped out of majoring in Science still did the pre-med req thing and ended up going to med school.</p>

<p>Relax. Yale accepted you among one of the toughest and most competitive pools ever. They didn't make a mistake. You'll do fine at whatever you set your eyes upon.</p>

<p>Remember this (because the question will arise in your head many times over the next year and a half): YALE DID NOT MAKE A MISTAKE CHOOSING YOU.</p>

<p>I bet if you look at other peer institutions with similar educational approaches, you will find very similar numbers. I know kids at Harvard who entered with a complete science/math focus, intending to be MD/PhDs, who wound up as Econ majors. My very own pre-med made the journey from Bio to Sociology at Chicago. A few months ago, I looked at intro science and math course registration numbers at Chicago by quarter, and every one of them shed students from one quarter to the next. For example, almost 400 students were registered in one of the three General Chemistry courses offered in the fall last year, but by spring quarter it was down to 300, notwithstanding that anyone with a core science major or who wanted to go to med school had to take a full year of Gen Chem.</p>

<p>For whatever reason, I think high schools do a much better job of teaching science and math to smart kids, so the population of those kids enters college thinking that they are much more interested in a career in science than they really are. And most high schools don't do any kind of job at teaching social sciences, so essentially everyone who winds up doing those is switching from a different interest set. Finally, for whatever reason colleges seem to do a terrible job of teaching introductory science courses. It almost seems to be a culture of hazing and weed-outism -- especially as compared to other fields, where the function of introductory courses is to attract students and interest them. I think university science faculties are getting exactly the result they want.</p>

<p>Thank you T26E4 and JHS for the reassurance! I think both of you have given very logical and reasonable answers ... I notice the "high schoolers thinking they are more interested in science than they actually are" phenomenon a lot because there are a lot of prospective chem majors from my amazing AP Chem class. This includes me. I suppose I'm just worried about switching out of a science major because my parents have kind of pounded it into my head that a science major is best for my future ... fortunately, I'm a little more open-minded ...</p>

<p>@JHS: Haha it was kind of the opposite at my high school. i.e. Every science class I had over the four years was taught by basically incompetent teachers, so there was a whole lot of self-teaching going on, whereas the social sciences had some of the most amazing teachers I've had. So I guess my interest in science really isn't based on quality of teaching in high school... maybe I will be able to stick with it past the intro courses. Thanks for that perspective. And thanks to T26E4 too - you're absolutely right that I "want to attend a college that may challenge your world views to the core and possibly alter your entire life's trajectory," and maybe I was forgetting that's one of the reasons I did choose Yale over, say, JHU's biomedical engineering program...</p>

<p>For fun, I just looked at Chicago's Organic Chemistry numbers -- last year, the two courses had 223 registered in the fall quarter, and 172 in the spring. Remember, to apply to med school (or major in chemistry) you need a full year of Orgo. So it looks like out of the 400 people who start out in Gen Chem (and that's real registrations, after early-quarter withdrawals), fewer than half make it all the way through Orgo. Actually, it's a little better than that, since I think a number of people take Orgo during the summer someplace else. Still, you're looking at serious attrition, and at a university with far fewer distractions than Yale offers.</p>

<p>When DS took Orgo II, I heard the professor gave exactly 3 questions on a mid-term. There is also very little opportunity of getting any partial credit (like you may have in high school) because of the nature of the problems. There is no assigned problem set / homework, so you are not going to get some bones just because of due diligence. All grades are determined by the scores of two mid-terms and a final. (The number of questions in final is more, likely 6 questions. This is because each mid-term is weighted 25% of your final grade, and the final is 50% -- I could be not exactly right here, but you get the general idea. That is, the professor is very stingy about giving many questions in a test. Hey, He has the TAs to take care of. The TA may increase the professor's productivity by working on professor's research project instead of spending too much time on grading the tests of somebody who is really not going into the science field in the end any way. The reputation of premeds at ANY schools is not great. Professors tend to love students who are going to follow their steps, i,e., going to the PhD program but not going to a professional school.)</p>

<p>It does not help that it is rumored that the professor has the habit of rushing through the last 6 chapters he wants to cover in the last class before final, because "he does not want to skip anything".</p>

<p>I heard the number of kids taking orgo II in his year/semester is much smaller than that of Orgo I. I do not know whether it is because many students decided to "jump ship" to take the orgo II of the other sequence of organic chemistry. (Note: At Yale, one orgo sequence starts in the fall semester and the other starts in the spring semester. The contents are the same even though the name is different.)</p>

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Funny thing is that many of my peers who dropped out of majoring in Science still did the pre-med req thing and ended up going to med school.

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DS nade a remark like this before: Some non-science major (I hesitate to mention which one here) is actually a very good major for premed.</p>

<p>I wonder how many percents of premeds at Yale are science majors. Less than 50 percents? Also, many students may take some of their science classes (usually they are weak in that area) in a summer class elsewhere. A new fad is to take all or most science classes in a postbacc program, so that they can still learn what they really want to learn in college.</p>

<p>It was a long time ago, but only a few of my Yale friends who went on to medical school failed to major in science -- usually MBB. One majored in studio art, one in American Studies, and another in economics, but the last didn't decide to go to medical school until after she finished college. She did the post-bac program at Bryn Mawr 30 years ago. It's not a "new fad". (She's a professor at Yale Medical School, by the way.)</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Not many pre-meds actually major in non-science majors. I know of only 2 doing that, and there's obviously more. But not a high percentage.</p></li>
<li><p>Intro science classes/premed classes are brutal. It's not impossible to do well, but realize that it seems as if the classes' main focus is to "weed out" people by making the tests and curves annoyingly difficult. This was my feeling in Chem and it's what seems to happen in Physics, Orgo, and Math as well. I think Bio might be the only class in which this isn't that prevalent. And English classes are also fair. Professors for Chem weren't that great, IMO. But I don't learn well from lectures anyways and stopped going so I'm not too good of a judge.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>People before you have survived and you will as well. Just make sure to stay on top of your work and don't underestimate the ability of a class to kick your ass, and you should be fine.</p>

<p>I hardly think high schools teach science better to smart students than colleges do. More like, college science classes at competitive universities are much harder than the AP or IB courses you take as a high schooler. Naturally, many prospective science majors are disheartened by their tough freshman year classes and decide to give up. It's not endemic of Yale in any way.</p>

<p>There's no need to kid around. Being a science/engineering major anywhere, Yale included, means you will have less free time and more academic work than people majoring in other fields. A lot of Yalies change majors because they can't take the hardship, not just because they ended up being more interested in other studies. </p>

<p>I enjoyed most of my intro science/math courses. Honestly, if the subject matter interests you, the difficulty of the material and even to a degree the caliber of the teaching will be of little consequence. If you have what it takes to work twice as hard as a polisci major to earn the same grade, I say go for it. In return, you get respect, a useful degree, and solid career/grad options.</p>

<p>^ This is the major issue with majoring in sciences at Yale, and yes, everywhere else as well. It's not that it's "hard," it's just you have to put in A LOT more time to do well. Having a life outside of academics becomes difficult. I decided to try and manage a lively extracurricular and social scene with a decent number of science classes and it came back and bit me in the ass. The two just don't go together at all.</p>

<p>My sister was a neuroscience major at Yale, and the vast majority of her classes were in the sciences. She personally thought they were easier than the non-science classes, and her overall experience in the sciences at Yale was phenomenal (she also participated in numerous e.c.'s, including a capella, dpops orchesta, volunteering in New Haven, etc. and did not find that her social life was inhibited at all by the coursework from her science classes)</p>

<p>^ Just curious, is the neuroscience major a track in the biology (more specifically, mcdb) department, or a track in the psychology department? Many schools seem to have different way to have their neuroscience major, e.g., U. Penn has its BBB major.</p>

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..try and manage a lively extracurricular and social scene with a decent number of science classes and it came back and bit me in the ass.

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I heard the same, unless you are a "pure" science major, by which I meant you are not interested in going to a professional school so the grade is not your constant concern (and the research is.)</p>