Student Recruitment

These webpages were written by Carol Ormand, based on ideas compiled from the 2005 workshop on Developing Pathways to Strong Departments of the Futureand the 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors.

Recruiting a critical mass of high quality students is essential to building a successful geoscience program. These pages present many tried-and-true strategies for doing that, along with examples of how various departments have implemented those strategies.

Recruitment Strategies

This page is an extensive list of all of the strategies suggested by our workshop participants, with links to the detailed examples on the pages below.

Videos about Recruitment Strategies

This page has videos of six of the presentations given at the 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors.

Feature Your Introductory Classes

Very few students come to college planning to major or minor in geoscience, so introductory courses are primary vehicles for recruitment. Make the most of that opportunity.

Inform Students about Career Opportunities in Geoscience

Today's students (and their parents) are highly motivated by practical considerations: Will they be able to get a job with their degree? How well will it pay? Will it be satisfying? By informing your students about the full range of career opportunities in the geosciences, you will improve your chances of recruiting majors (Marketing Earth Science Education, 2002).

Take Your Students Beyond the Classroom

A great deal of college learning takes place outside of the classroom, and these are often the experiences that students find most memorable and most valuable - the experiences they tell their friends about. Find out how other departments have integrated research experiences, internships, field work and service learning into their programs.

Advertise Your Program, on Campus and Beyond

Your fellow faculty members and the staff of the admissions office and campus career center can be allies in your recruitment efforts, but only if they know about your program(s). Likewise, students don't choose majors they've never heard about. Get the word out around your campus and your community about the vital work you and your students are doing.

Assess Your Recruitment Efforts

It's tempting to think that increased enrollments must be the result of increased recruitment efforts. However, correlation does not indicate causation. To assess your recruitment effectiveness accurately, you'll need to use an assessment tool that indicates causation.

References and Additional Readings

  • American Geosciences Institute, 2009. Student Perceptions of Geology and Implications for Choosing Among Different Science Majors.
    This article summarizes the results from interviews of nearly 800 students at the University of Arizona in 2008-2009. The interviews focused on students' attitudes toward science major programs. The study highlights students' misperceptions about geoscience careers, particularly salary expectations: students significantly underestimate starting salaries for geoscientists.
  • American Geosciences Institute, 2011. Geoscience Academic Provenance Series: Geoscience 'Pipeline' versus 'Pathway' Model, Geoscience Currents, n. 45.
    This brief article is the first installment in a series of 4 that summarize Houlton's (2010) pathway model, which identifies reasons students decide to pursue geoscience majors and may explain attrition rates in the geoscience disciplines.

2nd of 4: Geoscience Student Populations: Natives, Immigrants, and Refugees
3rd of 4: Critical Incidents: Why Students Choose to Pursue the Geosciences
4th of 4: Mapping Geoscience Student Populations' Pathways

  • Fiske, 2001. Put Your Science to Work: The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists , American Geophyscial Union, Washington, D.C.
    This book offers practical career advice to people looking for their first science career, experienced researchers in academia and students trying to decide what they want to do with their lives. It explores current and future career options for those with scientific training and offers different strategies for getting the job that you really want.
  • Hoisch, Thomas D. and James I. Bowie, 2010. Assessing Factors the Influence the Recruitment of Majors from Introductory Geology Classes at Northern Arizona University, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 58, n. 3, pp. 166-176.
    The authors surveyed 783 students in introductory geology classes and 23 geology majors about what factors would or did influence their choice of majors. Factors that favor the choice of geology at NAU include employability, good salary potential, the opportunity to work outdoors, and environmentally friendly employment. Students generally underestimated the salary potential of the geosciences; correcting that misperception may encourage their choice of geology as a major.
  • NAS, 1996. Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond , National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
    This book offers guidance to students on planning careers, especially careers outside of academia, and discusses how to set and achieve education and skills goals that are necessary for particular careers. Various career paths are illustrated with profiles of science and engineering professionals.
  • Sneider, Roel and Chris Spiers, 2002. Marketing Earth Science Education, Eos, v. 83, n. 12, p. 131.
    This article details the results of a study conducted by the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The department had been experiencing a trend of declining enrollments. By altering their recruitment efforts to address student interest in careers, the department was able to reverse the enrollment trend in its classes.
  • Tsui, Lisa, spring 2009. Recruiting Females into Male Dominated Programs: Effective Strategies and Approaches, Journal of College Admission. 
    This gem of an article addresses the question of why women are underrepresented in engineering and offers several specific recommendations for strategies that can attract women to the STEM disciplines.

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