The 2014 SAT Report on College & Career Readiness published by the College Board is a treasure trove of information. Unfortunately, when this much data intersects highly charged issues, some misinformation leaks out as well. Such is the fruit of the labor that went into Here’s The Average SAT Score For Every College Major published by Business Insider. This is not to say that the article is not worth reading, but rather that its central premise is fallacious: the College Board tracked prospective majors, not actual college graduates.
Nonetheless, we can learn a lot from the article and the research that supports it with the right perspective:
1. Multi-/Interdisciplinary Studies attracted the highest average composite SAT scorers. This major describes a wide range of programs in which students are not restricted to a single area of study or occupational field. One wonders if the students who selected this prospective major fully understood the choice or just wanted to keep their options open.
2. Students with the highest average SAT Math scores see themselves as future Mathematicians and Statistics majors.
3. The far-and-away most popular prospective majors for the H.S. graduating class of 2014 were, in order, Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences (269,441), Business (167,019), and Engineering (114,791). These choices, along with Biological and Biomedical Sciences (98,691) and Visual and Performing Arts (97,628), were even more popular than Undecided (96,804).
4. To understand the difference between intended major and achieved major, look to the data regarding the most popular majors for postsecondary students issued by U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. Of the 1,716,000 Bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2010–11, the greatest numbers were conferred in Business (365,000), Social Sciences and History (177,000), Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences (143,000), Education (104,000), and Psychology (101,000). Clearly, prospective engineers suffer a high attrition rate.
5. A full 12 out of 38 options inspired less than 1% of respondents. This list naturally includes trades, tech, and vocations that are routinely pursued outside of the four-year school environment. However, the numbers also suggest that not very many high schoolers these days are dreaming about futures as librarians, philosophers, park rangers, or public administrators.
Fascinating, no? If you’re interested in exploring more data, the article also includes rankings of (intended) majors by Critical Reading, Math, and Writing section scores.