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How popular are Greek majors?

A few months ago, the Chronicle looked at what the major composition was like within each Greek organization. What about Greek composition within each major? If you're sitting in a room with all the students in a particular major, what does that room look like?

Based on the proportions of students studying the most popular majors in 2017 (and assuming similar proportions for the class of 2018), this is an estimate of what the proportion of each major plotted against the proportion in Greek life looks like:


Note: Both the Chronicle and University data measure the total number of majors, not the total number of students. (aka if a student is double majoring, they're counted twice in the data). 33 percent of students are double majoring. These graphs assume that roughly an equal proportion of students inside and outside Greek life are double majoring. The horizontal line is drawn at 33.8 percent, the proportion of the class of 2018 involved in Greek life.

Additionally, only majors that made up more than 5 percent of total majors in the class of 2017 were included (about 125 majors in each class), as variation across smaller majors may be larger from year to year. There are two exceptions: (1) neuroscience, which made up 3 percent of all majors, is grouped together with psychology. (2) Biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering, which made up 6 percent, 5 percent, and 3 percent of all majors are grouped together as "engineering.”

Aside from computer science, each major seems to be skewed in its distribution of students towards or away from Greek life. And of all the majors plotted, only engineering and biology are disproportionately non-Greek. 

Breaking down the Greek life composition by gender reveals some more information: 



For every major that is disproportionately Greek except for public policy, there is one gender significantly bringing up the average and another bringing it down. This may not tell us that much though, as almost every major in the top 10 likely has a gender skew as well. For instance, according to NPR, in 2010, over 75 percent of psychology undergraduate majors were female, and under 20 percent of engineers were female.   

There's something to be said about the network that Greek life provides, and how business and policy oriented majors—economics, public policy, psychology, political science—along with computer science, seem to be disproportionately represented in Greek life. 

Contrast that with biology—a major in which people typically go on to graduate school of some type—and with engineering, a profession that requires a specific set of hard skills along with a certain set of soft skills.

There's an odd danger to making this kind of knowledge public. The groups we join and the people we socialize with shouldn’t be closely intertwined with our academic interests, right? The worst thing that could happen if this data gets spread is the gap widening between "Greek" majors and others (though l hope it motivates people to want to bridge the gap).

And while in a perfect world, our classmates shouldn’t influence our classes or major… They kind of do. Setting Greek life aside for a second, what is it like to be in a intro class in an extremely popular major and to realize that no one looks like you or that none of your friends are there? Who will you turn to for help and advice when things inevitably get challenging? Advisors and other external support systems are great, but regardless how accessible they become, they won’t be the same as having peers and upperclassmen helping you through the process. 

So how much does the personal get tied in with the social get tied in with the professional get tied in with the academic in college? And what professional connections are being lost by not being in the right social groups? What social connections are lost by not being in the right academic groups? What personal connections are lost by not being in the right professional groups? 

A few weeks ago, I requested to view my admission files. Aside from being forced to revisit all the numbers that seemed to dominate my high school career,  I was reminded once again that I applied to Duke as a public policy major—and not subtly either. It was the topic of nearly every essay I wrote, almost every extracurricular commitment I highlighted, and I somehow spun all three of my intended majors into something policy-oriented.

Two years later, I am not a public policy major. Not anywhere close. Before this semester, I hadn’t even taken a single class in the department. Have my underlying interests changed? No. Am I happy with my current major? Yes.

And even though I may just be a classic case of someone changing majors after matriculating, I am also convinced that Duke is the only college I would have gone to where I would have picked my major. So sometimes I still wonder—what are the things I would have considered studying had I just known more people studying them? What are the classes I would have dared to take, the people I would have dared to reach out to for help, the conversation I would have dared to have? And how much of that was influenced by the people I knew outside of classes? 

Amy Fan is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “fangirling,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.

Amy Fan | fangirling

Amy Fan is a Trinity senior. Her column, "fangirling," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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