By Rosanna Cohn
Earlier this week I had a meeting with the study advisor at LUC. As I walked out of her office I thought to myself: ‘pff, maybe I made the wrong choice going to LUC; another bachelor would have been much better for me.’ However, not one moment I considered switching studies. Why haven’t I?
Pierson argues that exploring path dependence helps understanding self-reinforcing processes in political development. However, also smaller, individuals’ self-reinforcing processes can be explained through path dependence. Increasing returns make it increasingly more difficult to switch off a particular path: the further you go down a path, the more you gain from staying on that path, and the more costly it becomes to switch paths. Unfortunately, the chosen path can turn out not to be the most efficient or rewarding one, just like in my case.
As graduation is getting closer, the costs of switching get higher. This is not only because the longer one studies, the more one has paid for tuition: also learning effects play a role. As the years proceeded, I have learned to work within LUC’s school system and how to get most out of it, from working in small seminars to tackling problems I encounter. If I were to switch to another bachelor, I would have to start over and get used to a very different system. Furthermore, over the years I have invested in developing my niche within The Hague (e.g. where to go out, sports team). Since The Hague barely hosts any studies, switching would imply moving to another city and thus losing these investments.
The path does not end after graduation though: once you are done, you will still be tied to the path. Whether you want to proceed onto a master’s or get a job – the choice is limited by your bachelor choice. And again, switching off the path by starting another bachelor is extremely costly both timewise (3 additional years) and moneywise (the government only subsidizes one bachelor).