If you are thinking of choosing a statistics major then you might be wondering how hard it will be.
This post will show you how hard a statistics major can be and what you can do to make it easier.
So, is a statistics major hard? Statistics is overall one of the more difficult majors. How hard it will be for you will depend largely on your level of preparation, your work ethic and the college that you go to.
There are actually a number of ways that statistics can be hard as well as easy and there are a number of things that you can do to make your time in the major much easier and more enjoyable.
Why a statistics major can be hard
Statistics is classed as a STEM major. Data shows that 35% of those who initially choose a STEM major switch out of the major within three years. The reason for this is likely to be that STEM majors tend to be challenging majors. Students that did well in these majors, in high school, might expect more of the same but then change majors when they realize that it is harder than they thought it would be.
It will involve a lot of mathematics
In the study, it also showed that those who originally chose a math major switched out of it at a rate of 52% which is the highest of all of the majors. A statistics degree will involve a lot of mathematics so it is likely that it is a similar story with statistics.
Many of the statistics classes will have a lot of math classes such as linear algebra and multivariable calculus as prerequisites. If you do not like mathematics then you will likely find that a statics major will not be for you. With that being said, statistics is a much more applied major than mathematics so you might find it to be more interesting.
It will depend on how well prepared you are for it
How hard a statistics major will be for you will largely depend on how well prepared you are for it. If you did well in statistics and mathematics at high school and maybe even competed in some competitions then you will likely be very well prepared for the major.
Whereas, if you did not take much math or statistics in high school then you will likely find statistics to be a challenging major. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do well in it or that you won’t enjoy it. But, it will require a lot of effort on your part.
It will be necessary for you to study a lot outside of class
Statistics is a challenging major and there tends to be a lot of homework that gets set. This means that it will be necessary for you to study a lot outside of class time.
In almost all statistics and math classes you will find that there will be many different ways to ask the same question. This means that in order to do well in the classes it would help to have seen as many variations of the questions as possible. This will involve you having to work through as many problems as you deem appropriate in your own time.
Lower-division classes tend to be easier
Since most statistics classes will have a lot of math classes as a prerequisite you will likely find that you won’t be taking many statistics classes in your freshman and sophomore years. In these years you will likely be taking more general elective classes, computer science classes and mathematics classes.
The math classes that you will be taking in these years will likely include calculus, linear algebra and discrete math. While these classes can be challenging, they are not normally too difficult relative to higher division math classes.
Upper-division classes can be a lot harder
You will likely take most of your statistics and probability classes in your junior and senior years. These classes can be challenging but they tend to be very applied and they are not usually proof heavy with the exception of mathematical statistics.
With that being said, most statistics programs will make you also take a number of proof-based mathematics classes such as real analysis. In these classes, it will be necessary for you to prove the underlying mathematics in a rigorous way. Many people struggle with these classes and their level of difficulty will likely be a step up from what you are used to.
With that being said, most universities will offer introduction to proofs classes that you should make sure to take before taking any proof-based classes.
You can also prepare for them yourself by self-studying from books that teach how to approach proofs such as this one.
Ways to make a statistics major less difficult
While there are some challenging aspects to a statistics major it is also one of the best degrees to obtain from an employment perspective, it is a highly applicable degree and being able to deal with data is becoming more and more valuable.
There are many things that you can do to make your time in the statistics major go much more smoothly and to allow for yourself to enjoy your time in the major a lot more.
Avoid taking multiple difficult classes in the same semester
While it might not always be possible, especially in your junior and senior years, it would help to try to avoid taking multiple difficult classes in the same semester.
While it is possible to take multiple difficult classes concurrently, you will likely find that it will be very challenging and stressful and it could hurt your GPA.
A better option would be to take the time as early as possible to plan out your entire statistics degree so that you are able to avoid taking multiple difficult classes concurrently. You can do this with an academic advisor from the statistics department and you’ll likely find that the recommended class schedule, on the degree sheet, will be structured to be optimal anyway.
The difficulty of the classes will depend largely on the professor
Something to consider is that the difficulty of the class will depend largely on the professor.
Usually, the professor will dictate the pace of the class, the scope of the class and the weighting of the exams. Some professors will tell you that you need to know everything from the textbook for the exam while others will give you a study guide.
You will likely find that the lower-division math classes will have multiple offerings in the same semester. You can use the website ratemyprofessors.com to select the most recommended professors.
However, you will often find that upper-division classes will only be offered at one time. In this case, you can either take a different class, take the class regardless or take it at a later semester.
Plan the schedule of each class out in advance
Something that you should always do to make your classes go much more smoothly is to plan out the semester as soon as you receive the syllabus for each class.
By doing this you will be able to avoid missing any exams or homework, you will be able to know when it will be necessary for you to start revising ahead of an exam and you will be able to spot potentially hectic weeks.
Make sure to always do well on the homework
While the exams will usually have the highest weighting in the class the homework will also tend to have a reasonably high weighting as well. Often, you will find that the homework will be worth around 20%. This is enough to make up for a poor exam score or possibly to bump you up by a grade boundary.
This is one reason why it is always important to do as well as you can on the homework. Doing well on the homework will also help you do better on the exams since you’ll learn more of the material and it will be easier for you to go back through your homework ahead of the exams.
Read the relevant chapter before jumping to the problems
Often, students will jump to the homework problems before reading the relevant chapter because they want to save time. Doing this is usually a mistake since the questions will be based on the material in the chapter and the professor likely will miss sections of the chapter in class.
You will likely find that you will be able to learn the material much more effectively if you read the chapters from the book before attempting the problems.
Get help when you get stuck
It is important to get help when you really get stuck. By doing so you’ll be able to show the professor that you are putting an effort into the class, avoid having gaps in your knowledge before the exam and you will be able to have a higher homework grade.
Despite that, while it is important to get help when you get stuck it is also important to try to figure out the solution yourself beforehand. This means that you should read the relevant chapter, look at tutorials on Youtube and look at any lecture notes that you might have first.
Revise material that you do not know already
Math and statistics classes build upon each other. In most math and stats classes, there will be prerequisite classes that they build upon and it will be important for you to have a good grasp of the prerequisites before starting the class. This means that it would be worthwhile to brush up on things that you are unsure about from the prerequisites before taking the classes.
Prepare for the class before taking it
If you are concerned that a class will be difficult then another thing you can do is to study the class before starting it. By doing so you will find that it will be much easier to understand what the professor is teaching and it will be easier for you to understand why they are teaching it.
You can do this by looking for courses on Youtube, Coursera or Edx. Alternatively, you can look for highly-rated books on Amazon or Ebay to work through as well.