Challenges Recent Graduates Overcame to Complete Degree

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Monday, November 10, 2014
Recent geoscience graduates were asked to describe their greatest challenge to completing their degree. The table highlights the most cited challenges by students, along with the percentage of graduates that faced the challenge and example comments from students. Thirteen percent of graduates either did not respond to the question or did not feel they faced a major obstacle while working towards their degree.
The majority of graduates had trouble with specific classes. The classes most often cited were Calculus I, Calculus II, and Physics; even students that completed a graduate degree mentioned difficulty in these courses as an undergraduate. However, a few students mentioned their capstone or thesis work as challenging. Financial issues were also mentioned frequently, and were coupled with other challenges, specifically related to balancing school and work and time management. Personal issues were often cited by students in relation to motivation. Interestingly, 5 percent of graduates mentioned issues with the faculty in the department, such as disrespect, poor teaching skills, and lack of advisement. Other challenges cited by multiple graduates include chosing their major too late (4%), issues with advisors and/or committee (3%), and issues with the administration at the university level (3%).
These responses are enlightening and raise two major questions. What can be easily changed within departments to mitigate these obstacles? How many potential geoscience majors have been lost due to these obstacles?
Special recognition is given to Jamie Ricci for her qualitative analysis of the data.