Pandemic influenced some incoming freshmen’s choice of study

Dallin Wilks
First-year students gather in groups to eat lunch at New Student Orientation. Some of the incoming freshmen at BYU said the pandemic influenced their intended field of study. (Dallin Wilks)

Some incoming freshmen at BYU said the pandemic has influenced their intended fields of study.

The Daily Universe interviewed various freshmen who attended Saturday night’s New Student Orientation activities and found that while a majority of freshmen didn’t experience the pandemic affecting their major, several students changed or had their majors influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many freshmen were still undecided on their majors and thus were not influenced at all by COVID-19.

In a study by Intelligent, approximately 42% of incoming freshmen said their intended majors were influenced by the pandemic. The study surveyed 1,250 high school class of 2021 graduates who are attending college this fall and noticed a shift in interest compared to 2018-19 college degrees conferred.

Overall, the incoming class in this study has a greater interest in pursuing degrees in legal professions and area, ethnic, cultural, gender and group studies. Fewer will pursue homeland security, law enforcement and communications related degrees. The study found that the group who said their intended major was influenced by the pandemic was less likely to pursue health professions.

Of the freshmen The Daily Universe interviewed, those who said they were influenced by the pandemic decided to either go into the medical field or saw a greater need to help others and chose a major that could achieve that. Some students experienced internship and job shadow opportunities that opened their eyes to new or different career paths and others experienced a surplus of time during quarantine that allowed them to figure out what they were passionate about.

Greater need for healthcare workers

Several students said seeing the need for healthcare workers during the pandemic led them to change their intended major to medicine or confirmed their desire to be a health care worker.

Isabel Ownby is studying molecular biology and said the pandemic “opened her eyes” to the need for healthcare workers and physicians. She is now thinking about nursing and said she wants to help others in the capacity that she can.

Cameron Jacobsen said he wanted to do business before, but seeing how unclear and political everything in the pandemic became, he was exposed to a lot of medical experiences and decided to go into medicine instead so he could find those answers. Charlize Thao decided to study public health and go into the medical field because there is always a surplus of medical professional jobs that are needing to be filled.

Greg Hooke knew he wanted to study cell biology before, but after serving his mission and seeing people sick over the last year he realized he wanted to go to medical school so he could make a difference in people’s lives. Aja Jensen had already decided to be a nurse, but with the pandemic she feels there is an even greater need and she wants to keep pursuing it.

Arwen Nielsen said the biggest influence on her desire to be a nurse is her mom who works as one. She said seeing the need for more help right now also contributed to her decision. Genetics and biotechnology major Ethan Davidson said he was always interested in life science, but “the opportunity to see a pandemic hit so close to home” helped him see how the body works and the importance of understanding how to fortify it to prepare for future diseases.

Increased desire to help others

Several students mentioned their desire to help others was increased during the pandemic and their intended majors now reflect that. Psychology was a common major students decided on because of COVID-19.

Because of childhood experiences, Nattacia Christian said she already wanted to go into psychology. Seeing firsthand the amount of anxiety and mental health issues prevalent during the pandemic made her want to help others in that way even more. Vanessa Brouse also said she noticed how much the pandemic affected people’s mental health and it strengthened her desire to go into the psychology field.

Callin Carpenter is interested in studying the effects quarantine had on young people. He said he didn’t know what major he wanted to do before the pandemic, but now he wants to focus on psychology, be a counselor and attend law school. Leighann Jackman is studying neuroscience and hopes to look into how the pandemic affected people mentally and what it did to the brain.

Sherisse Rogers faced some health issues during the pandemic and realized through that experience she wanted to reform and improve the healthcare system in America. As a dietetics major she hopes to research dietary restrictions and be an advocate in the health community.

Danica Kilton decided to go from nursing to business because the pandemic helped her realize she has respect for healthcare workers, but she wants to just focus on making people happy. She now plans to go into entrepreneurship and work for a nonprofit that provides theater experiences for kids in hospitals.

New opportunities

Online school gave many students the ability to do job shadows or be a part of opportunities they never would have participated in before. This led them to decide on new paths of study.

Eli Hendricks had the opportunity to work for his grandpa who runs a pathology lab that conducts COVID-19 tests. Before this experience he wanted to be a lawyer, but after working in the lab he was fascinated by the science involved and is now planning to study neuroscience or biology as a pre-med student.

Abbymae Arnall always imagined she would go into the dental field and she worked with her dad who is a dental anesthesiologist during the pandemic. “I got to work with him firsthand and realized I didn’t want to do it at all,” she said. She explored other medical field options and ended up working for a gynecologist during her time off and said it was a positive thing for her. She is still undecided on her major, but said she is leaning toward pre-med nursing because of that experience.

While on his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Isaac Gubelin had the opportunity to make and edit videos. Many missionaries experienced this new digital version of missionary work when COVID-19 hit and in-person interactions were limited. From this experience Gubelin was inspired to do a minor related to media arts and cinematography in addition to his electrical engineering major. He said he noticed how much need there is in helping society get better and hopes to use his degree to do that.

Gabriel Pettitt said the pandemic finetuned his plans for the future because he worked at the Iowa State Capitol for a semester and learned he wants to improve people’s health and immune systems. His plan is to study biology and become a chiropractor because he wants to learn how to optimize human bodies since they “a work of art from God.” After working as a chiropractor he wants to combine politics with promoting healthier lifestyles and eventually run for office.

Because of the pandemic, Bethany Richmond traveled to Denver while doing online school and decided to graduate early. While she was there, she met lots of new people and shadowed an OB-GYN, dermatologist, orthopedic surgeon and even connected with a doctor who owns an enzyme research clinic. She had always planned on getting a master’s in business administration, but because of all the exposure she had to medical professions, she became fascinated by the nervous system and enzymes. She now plans to do pre-med neuroscience or biophysics.

Extra time to contemplate

Some incoming BYU freshmen said with so much extra time on their hands during quarantine and online school, they could contemplate on their interests to figure out their true passions and plans for a career.

Jennifer Tenney has always been a big reader, but during the pandemic she had more time to read and realized she wants to make a job out what she loves. She is now switching from nursing to English and hopes to be a publisher. Phoebe English said her intended editing major wasn’t influenced by the pandemic, but the pandemic did give her more time to write and she hopes to become an editor or author.

Kimberly Dawson originally wanted to do business management, but because of COVID-19, she came home from her mission in Ecuador and got to watch her dad do his job. Now she wants to do industrial design like her dad and be an architect.

Ella Norton said with so much time to herself she realized her passion lied in mechanical engineering or physics and astronomy. Julianne Goodin said because she watched so many TV shows in quarantine she decided she wants to go into the film industry instead of her original plan of being a forensic scientist.

Thomas Gibby didn’t know if he wanted to make acting his major, but with extra time on his hands he worked on a voice acting project that helped him decide to study acting. Kaylee Bake had several options for her future and said the pandemic helped her narrow down what she liked the best and she is now planning to be an art teacher.

Miles Carmack said he grew a lot during the pandemic and became closer to God. With his extra time he figured out what was meaningful to him. He said he felt guided to study math and soon after everything in his life started to fall into place.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email