BEYOND: College Majors in a Post-Pandemic World

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Various fields of study | Photo Credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Addison Keeley started his freshman year as a culinary arts major.

“When I started at LLCC, I was majoring in culinary because my dad was teaching several classes for the major, and overall, I was interested in becoming a chef,” he said.

Keeley took a year off to focus on his boxing and returned as a journalism student.

“At that time, a lot of restaurant owners were worried they’d have to close their establishments for good due to the effect the pandemic had. Given that I was always a good writer and had incorporated it as a hobby before, I decided I would switch to journalism,” Keeley said. “By doing this, I could become a boxing journalist, therefore allowing me to incorporate boxing into my career whether I’m in the ring or not.”

Keeley was like a lot of college students who re-evaluated their majors during the pandemic. According to a recent study held by intelligent.com, a website designed to help college students with study plans and career preparation, approximately 42% of incoming college freshmen say the pandemic influenced their major choice.

The study compared statistics from the 2018-2019 college degrees from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to the anticipated majors for the incoming 2021-2022 freshmen. While the study only compares to anticipated majors and not finished degrees, there is a marked change of interest among these freshmen.

Legal professions, gender and ethnic studies and engineering majors saw more than a 50% increase compared to 2019. Education, computer technologies, and foreign languages majors rose up to 49%.

On the other hand, humanities, English language and literature, and social services dropped more than 50% over the pandemic. Majors like visual arts, health professions, and law enforcement saw up to a 49% decrease.

Some students decided not to attend college at all.

Lindsey Reeter, a Northwestern High School senior in Palmyra, has decided to forego college and focus on other things.

“The pandemic killed my ideas of college because I wouldn’t get to have an actual college experience due to COVID.” Reeter said. “I’m in the CEO program at my high school and will probably focus on my business after graduation.”

Reeter does plan on attending college if the pandemic eases up in the next year. “I’ll probably go to college if it does get better because business classes would be helpful but for now I’m going to see where my business can take me,” she said.

Reeter’s older sister, Jordan Reeter, is a freshman at Millikin University, majoring in biology on the pre-med track. Jordan’s choice in major has been influenced by the recent changes in women’s health care across the country, as well as other political issues that have grown in prominence the last few years.

“Part of why I want to go into women’s health is to be in a better position to help more women access necessary medical care, especially in times of uncertainty like we are seeing today,” Jordan Reeter said.

The overall effect seems to be a more solid interest in politics and social issues and a decrease in English studies and the arts. It is uncertain whether these changes will become more permanent in the coming classes or remain a temporary result of the pandemic.

Emily Leers is a journalism major at Lincoln Land Community College. She hopes to complete her degree and transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in the area. When she’s not spending time with friends or her pets, you can usually find her with a good book or enjoying her favorite pastime: napping.