Last month, 486 members of the Class of 2022 declared their majors. The annual rite of passage had a different tone this year, with no Major Declaration Celebration being held in Sayles or the Great Hall.
Instead, Alumni Relations designed a virtual celebration, held on Carleton’s Instagram page on Friday, May 8. According to a Facebook post about the event, students were encouraged to post an Instagram story with a photo of themselves, adding a custom “I declared at Carleton” frame and a “pin” sticker corresponding to their major.
In the weeks after major declaration, alumni also made videos for sophomores to congratulate them from afar, with the initiative publicized on the Alumni Digital Community website.
The declaration period began during the last week of March and lasted until April 12, the second Tuesday of Spring term. Some off-phase members of the Class of 2022 declared their majors earlier this year or last year, during their sixth term.
Members of the Class of 2022 represent 33 different majors—31 of Carleton’s 33 major offerings, plus two special majors (in Dance and Chinese, typically offered only as minors). Biology was the most popular choice, with 59 students declaring that major. Political Science/International Relations, Computer Science, Psychology and Mathematics rounded out the top five.
Those five majors, along with Economics, have consistently rotated through the top five spots in past years, according to data for the Class of 2017 onwards.
Several departments saw noticeable decreases in majors this year. The Religion department, for example, currently lists only three majors in the sophomore class. The department has typically averaged almost 11 majors per year for the Classes of 2017 through 2021.
English also saw a decrease, with 14 declarations from the Class of 2022, compared to an average of about 25 majors per year for the Classes of 2017 through 2021. History saw similar numbers, with 15 declarations this year compared to an average of 24 for the five previous years.
Meanwhile, the Physics department saw an increase in declarations this year. It is reporting 30 majors in the Class of 2022—a sizable jump compared to its average of about 19 majors per class for the past five years.
Professor Marty Baylor, chair of the Physics department, said she could not pinpoint a specific reason for the increase. However, she hopes that the department’s efforts “to build a diverse and inclusive environment” are paying off.
Baylor also cited the “new building bump” as potentially playing a role. The Physics department moved this year into Evelyn Anderson Hall, Carleton’s new integrated science facility, which opened in Fall 2019. Baylor noted that St. Olaf College’s physics department saw a significant increase in majors after the school opened a new science building in 2008.
The Chemistry department—which is also housed in Anderson—posted strong numbers this year as well with 35 majors, making it the sixth most popular major for the sophomore class. However, the Geology department, the final department located in Anderson, did not mark an increase.
Professor Daniela Kohen, chair of the Chemistry department, said that this year’s declarations fall within the department’s usual range, so she does not think the increase is due to any specific factor.
Some departments could gain additional majors from the Class of 2022 as students add a second major. While some sophomores have already declared a double major, it is also common for students to add a second major later on.
Sophomores choosing a major this spring had a lot on their minds, from navigating online classes to considering how the economic effects of COVID-19 might shape the economy they will graduate into. Maya Rogers ’22 spoke to the Carletonian about how COVID-19 pandemic shaped her thinking during her major decision.
Rogers declared Psychology, a choice that she settled on early in her sophomore year. She has been interested in a career in public health for several years, but now suspects that more students will pursue that field in the wake of COVID-19.
“Because of that, I really need to be on top of figuring out what I want to do, specifically for after graduation,” Rogers said. For her, that will mean choosing her courses more carefully and applying for more extracurricular opportunities.
Rogers felt confident in choosing Psychology because it can lead to careers in a wide variety of fields, from non-profit work to marketing, she said. “With all the uncertainty going on in the world, it’s nice to know there’s more than one path,” said Rogers.
The prospect of ongoing instability due to COVID-19 has also solidified Roger’s decision to pursue graduate school after Carleton.
“By the time I graduate, the economy definitely will not be recovered,” she said. “So going to graduate school makes the most sense, in that I don’t have to get out in the world in the same way.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misreported that Class of 2022 represented 30 of Carleton’s 33 majors, which, due to a campus directory error, did not account for the two sophomores who declared Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. In a May 9 edit, we updated the article and graph to include WGST majors, bringing the total to 31.