Student athlete majors mirror general student body choices

Feb. 1, 2013, 1:40 a.m.

Stanford student-athletes tend to favour the same majors as the general student body, according to data from the Office of the University Registrar. The most popular major among student-athletes was HumBio, with 69 declared student-athletes, the same major that was most popular among the graduating class of 2012.

Human biology (HumBio), science, technology and society (STS), engineering, management science and engineering (MS&E) and psychology stand as the five most popular majors among student-athletes. The top five majors among all undergraduates are computer science, HumBio, engineering, biology and STS.

This data comes from the 372 student-athletes who declared their major by the end of fall quarter. There were 869 active student-athletes in the fall of 2012.


The Top Five

Lia Cacciari, student services officer for the HumBio program, said that part of its appeal for student-athletes is the ability to pursue a course of study other than the core classes, allowing them to construct a flexible schedule. Cacciari also said that HumBio faculty are aware of the need to accommodate athletes.

STS is the second most popular major among the athletes, with 64 declared student-athletes

Josh Mauro ’13, a member of the football team who is pursuing a major in STS, attributed the program’s flexibility and interdisciplinary nature as the main benefits.

“I’ve been able to take some sociology, some communications, some management science and engineering, as well as just some of the [general education requirements] classes, so I’ve been able to take a broad selection of classes that are interesting and open my mind up to different realms of Stanford,” Mauro said.

Engineering is the next most popular major, with just under 11 percent of student-athletes pursuing it, followed by MS&E with just under 9 percent. Psychology is the fifth most popular major among all student-athletes, with 7 percent of declared student-athletes pursuing a psychology degree.

“MS&E and STS give you a really good degree coming out of Stanford to go into a lot of different fields, it’s a pretty well rounded degree in my opinion,” said Ronnie Harris ’15, a member of the football team who is planning on majoring in psychology with a pre-med focus.


Support System

Ben Gardner ’13, an STS major and football player, noted the value of the Athletic Academic Resource Center (AARC) to student-athletes as they balance their sport with their academics.

“The AARC is one of the first places we go if we have questions about our direction in the classroom, where we want to go with our academic career or if we have issues, if we have a problem with a class,” Gardner said.

Mauro said student athletes also have athletic academic advisors and player development coaches at their disposal.

“We do have an academic advisor who’s helpful,” said KC Moss ’15, a member of the women’s swimming team. “From my limited experience, I get the sense she’s really good with freshmen and helping us select our classes our first quarter, and generally after that, kids figure it out on their own.”

Moss, who is considering majoring in economics or political science, credited the advice of her fellow athletes as being the most critical when it comes to academic choices.

“I’d say some of the best advice I’ve gotten for selecting courses and considering my course of study has been from upperclassmen – athletes who’ve been through it,” Moss said.

Gardner said that he has seen a similar trend on the football team.

“I think that on our team STS has become more popular over the years,” he said. “MS&E has also – I think that’s a reflection of the influence of the older guys on our team.”

Gardner added that support from departments is important to student-athletes’ success, and that faculty are generally aware of constraints that arise from athletic commitments and are willing to make accommodations.

“The professors and [teaching assistants] do a great job if you have a scheduling conflict or any other problem,” Gardner said. “They’re usually pretty understanding, given how much time and effort we put into our sports as well as our classes.”

However, he said that the accommodations made for student-athletes do not give them an advantage over other students during their time at Stanford.

“I know it’s a lot different here than it is in a lot of schools, just in the fact that athletes aren’t given any sort of special treatment,” Gardner said. “We’re expected to do all the same things in the classroom that the regular students are and we’re expected to put in 20 or more hours a week into our sports.”

Despite the difficulties of balancing academics and athletics, both Gardner and Mauro look forward to being well prepared for the difficulties of managing their careers once they leave athletics.

“With the added stress and pressures of playing a sport as well as keeping up with classes, I think people in the real world see that and they understand the effort and time it takes to achieve in both of those at the same time,” Mauro said. “I feel more confident or just as confident as the normal student coming out of Stanford working in the real world.”

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