As part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “What is the most popular major/minor?”
According to the Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics office, undeclared undergraduate, psychology and business administration are the top three majors for the fall 2019 semester at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Business, mathematics and psychology are the top three minors this semester and have remained at the top of the list for the past five years, according to IEA.
Every fall semester, partly due to the incoming freshman class, there is an increase in most majors on campus and a notable increase for the Explore Center, according to Joey Lynch, an assistant director at the center.
“Everything’s new. I think most college students would tell you that the first year is more difficult,” Lynch said. “I think there’s a lot more guidance that’s needed there helping students navigate how college is different — socially, academically and all that.”
By the spring semester, the number of students who are undeclared undergraduate usually decreases, he said, with many students declaring a major in their first semester at UNL and a majority within their first year.
“I would say the key thing that we focus on is finding the intersection of [a student’s] interests, skills and values, he said. “What they like to do, what they’re good at and what their goals are after graduation or during their time right now.”
Advisers help students by placing them in classes at New Student Enrollment, establishing a one-on-one relationship, addressing what help a student might need and answering questions, Lynch said.
Psychology and business administration are usually next on the list, following undeclared students, and typically have more students by the spring semester.
Rick Bevins, chair of the Psychology Department, said psychology is a broad field of study and draws in many students.
“You can do so many things. and it’s a launching pad for so many different types of careers,” he said.
Because of UNL’s smaller size in comparison to the rest of the Big Ten schools, Bevins said students are able to have more one-on-one connections and address needs with one of three full-time advisors.
Research plays a role in drawing students to specific universities, and Bevins said the opportunities UNL is able to offer to students are usually numerous, within the UCARE undergraduate research program and on campus in general.
Additionally, Bevins said the psychology major and minor both appeal to pre-health students. As the Medical College Admission Test includes more sections on social behavioral sciences, he said the Psychology Department is able to give students a competitive edge in the job market and set them up for graduate school.
Kathy Farrell, dean of the College of Business, said business administration serves almost as an undeclared program for students who may want to choose business as their end degree but do not know for sure what to pursue.
“The beauty of the business administration major is you can kind of tailor some of your course selection to meet your own personal needs depending on what your career aspirations are,” she said.
Finance and marketing usually accompany business administration on the top 10 list of majors, a fact Farrell said reflects a growth and focus on business at the undergraduate level. She also said the variance in the business degrees offered to UNL students increases the number of students in the college.
“No matter what you do post-graduation, you’ll be working in a business,” she said.
The business administration major also allows students to design their own path toward graduation by letting them choose from five areas of study toward earning their degree, according to the Undergraduate Catalog.
With around 250 majors offered on campus, Lynch said a student’s search for the right major may include some research and additional advising that the Explore Center is always ready to offer.
“Everyone [in the Explore Center] really loves working with students, and that’s what excites them: helping students figure out what they want to do,” he said. “Anybody that’s kind of wanting to explore other options or more options, we’d be a great resource for them.”