Why do athletes choose social sciences over STEM? We looked at the numbers.


Despite the dedication of everyday methods and weekend competitions, varsity student-athletes, in basic principle, have the exact same educational working experience as other college students. Composing just beneath 18 per cent of the undergraduate population, university student-athletes get the identical advising, get the exact lessons, and are held to the similar benchmarks.   

“As a matter of instructional plan,” the University’s athletics website suggests, “Princeton seeks to guarantee that pupil-athletes are representative of the university student entire body.”

But with April 11 marking the finish of concentration declaration for A.B. sophomores, The Daily Princetonian analyzed the concentration selections of present-day upperclass learners. The ‘Prince’ discovered that in their academic passions, pupil-athletes aren’t really agent of the pupil entire body. 

College student-athletes disproportionately main in the social sciences — 57.8 percent of current upperclass athletes study in the self-discipline. In contrast, only 29.8 % of non-athletes selected a social science concentration. 

Economics is the most common concentration among scholar-athletes — 19.3 percent focus in the division in contrast to 8.3 p.c of non-athletes. 12.8 p.c of athletes focus in SPIA as opposed to 8.2 p.c of non-athletes and 8.7 per cent of athletes focus in politics compared to 3.2 percent of non-athletes.

College student-athletes are underrepresented in STEM. Only 16 per cent focus inside of the pure sciences, as opposed to 28 per cent of non-athletes. 19.7 p.c of scholar-athletes are on the B.S.E. observe, compared to 29.3 percent of non-athletes. 

Scholar-athletes also selected to big in the humanities at a charge five % beneath that of non-athletes, 12.9 % of whom are in the discipline. 

7 departments — astrophysics, music, Slavic languages and literature, French and Italian, German, East Asian research, and Spanish and Portuguese — have no pupil-athlete concentrators. 

Conversely, student-athletes are overrepresented in 12 departments. 35.7 p.c of politics concentrators, 34.1 percent of economics, and 33.8 percent of sociology pupils are athletes.


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According to Affiliate Dean Alec Dun, these developments replicate university student-athletes’ tutorial interests, not their differing means to fulfill specific concentration demands. Dun serves as a liaison to the Athletic Department.

“There’s no tutorial interest that a college student-athlete just cannot abide by for the reason that of the activity they do,” Dun mentioned. “We live and die by that.” 

Dolly Lampson-Stixrud ’22, a member of the women’s fencing crew, is majoring in chemical and biological engineering (CBE). Only a few out of 60 CBE concentrators are athletes. 

“[Majoring in CBE] is a thing that you can do if it is something that you want to do,” Lampson-Stixrud explained. “But it is actually, truly really hard — there is a motive why I’m 1 of the handful of athletes in CBE. You have to be keen to get rid of a good deal of snooze, and rest is necessary to do perfectly in athletics. So you have to identify what is important to sacrifice.”

Sophia Marsalo ’25, a softball participant, discovered herself generating this resolve in the middle of a 5-class semester of B.S.E. prerequisites. In significant faculty, she loved her engineering courses —  “I would get as numerous as I could,” she mentioned — and prepared to declare CBE at Princeton.  

But Marsalo stated she observed herself struggling to preserve up with do the job on top rated of her in-season athletic commitments. A physics midterm on the day her staff returned from a tournament in Florida was the tipping issue. 

“I just just did not have the time to prepare like I essential to, and I did seriously poorly,” Marsalo said. “I took a step back and asked, ‘Will I be in a position to move forward with my daily life if I do not go after engineering?’ Right now, I’m just making an attempt to figure out not only what I like, but what I can do even though remaining an athlete.”

As Marsalo looked to swap tracks, her educational advisor to start with inspired her to proceed pursuing B.S.E. — suggesting she acquire a summer months class or move/D/fall short a course to lighten her workload — and her professors supplied procedures to support her be successful. Continue to, Marsalo did not like the feeling she experienced in her engineering lessons of  “just carrying out sufficient to get by.” 

Because dropping engineering to look at psychology or politics, Marsalo has benefitted from the encounter of her typically A.B. teammates. Only 1 upperclass softball participant is on the B.S.E. track. 

“As before long as I stated that I was switching to A.B., one particular of my teammates sat down with me on TigerPath,” Marsalo said. “We’re all comparable persons and dwell the exact same daily life. Knowing what they appreciated or assumed was quick undoubtedly influenced my conclusions.”

In comparison to their non-athlete counterparts, university student-athletes see a wider gender gap in engineering. Only 28.6 per cent of student-athletes in engineering participate in on women’s teams, though 43.1 p.c of non-athlete B.S.E. college students are woman, in accordance to info from the Place of work of the Registrar

Genevieve Fraipont ’23, who plays on the women’s drinking water polo team, serves as a representative for Jock Docs, a peer network for scholar-athletes on the premedical keep track of. The idea of the group, she claimed, is to address the specific worries pre-med university student-athletes might face.

“There’s the time motivation, of class — like any STEM big, it’s both demanding and time-consuming,” Fraipont said. “I believe athletes also have a stereotype of not remaining sensible, so it’s possible freshmen athletes get dissuaded from pre-med. The Jock Doc advising cohort supports athletes in a different way by indicating, ‘if you do want to be a physician, it is doable.’”

Nevertheless, as a religion concentrator, Fraipont famous that her science classes frequently expected more of her time. This need was most pronounced as a to start with-year when she took organic chemistry.

“I experienced an exam every single other 7 days, whereas most individuals [on my team] had a pair of essays to do the entire semester,” Fraipont explained. “I was like, ‘Why do you guys get to go out each single evening, and I’m studying in the Whitman library?’”

In contrast to the idea that expanded time commitments lead to the underrepresentation of pupil-athletes in STEM, Jake Intrater ’23, a math concentrator on the heavyweight rowing team, instructed student-athletes could just be significantly less fascinated in the topics.  

“The type of individual who’s dedicating their existence to the position wherever they are a math significant at Princeton is not likely to essentially also be acquiring this kind of competence in a entirely unique realm,” Intrater stated. “Student-athletes have a large amount on their plates [and] are not necessarily usually the most academically enthusiastic.”

Dun, on the other hand, proposed that student-athletes’ fascination in the social sciences “might conceivably” be tied to their ordeals as customers of a crew.  

“Athletes work as components of larger sized teams,” Dun explained. “They believe about how these teams operate, why they operate, and powerful ways to make them make improvements to. The social sciences are about devices, how they evolve, and how to effects change. That, to me, would be an natural explanation.”

The interdisciplinary character of some social science departments, in accordance to Britt Masback ’24, may well be especially captivating to university student-athletes. Masback, a SPIA concentrator, is on the men’s cross place and observe groups.

“I feel athletes are a lot more probably to use their time in college to figure out their academic passions, so it makes feeling that [SPIA] would be interesting,” Masback stated. “It is one of the largest majors, probably mainly because it appeals to individuals from a good deal of various angles and passions.” 

“I also really don’t feel SPIA is observed as the most straightforward or most workable major,” Masback extra. 

Politics concentrator Ben Bograd ’23, who performs on the men’s soccer team, meant to key in SPIA when he started out at Princeton. On the other hand, he later recognized a different section would far better allow him to investigate his interests in American politics and international relations. As Bograd’s options shifted, his teammates made available practical advice.

“A lot of the methods that pupil-athletes have when they 1st occur to college are upperclassmen teammates, much more so than your PAA or your RCA,” Bograd stated. At the advice of a teammate, he took POL329: Policymaking in The united states in the spring of his first year. Bograd stated that the politics class “helped catalyze [his] interest in plan.”

Even with his positive working experience in politics, Bograd noted that specified troubles — like essay deadlines just after away games or office several hours during observe times — are felt by pupil-athletes throughout disciplines.

“Many of us had been recruited athletes, and for some learners, that may possibly direct to a bias that athletes are significantly less ready for courses,” Bograd said. “But loads of the smartest men and women I know are college student-athletes. They are just as capable.” 

Molly Taylor is a Info and Functions contributor for the Every day Princetonian. She can be attained at [email protected]. 


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