5 Classes to Take Outside Your Major

October 1, 2012

Classroom 104, the "Fishbowl"

Your major is the focal point of your college career. Many students even choose what school they attend based on their major. As important as it is to take all your core classes in your specialty, you should also consider classes in other disciplines. Even if you’re majoring in something seen as practical, such as Business, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t branch out a little. So, here are 5 college classes to take outside of your major.

1. Philosophy

Most of the college experience is about stretching your mind and challenging your beliefs. Philosophy will get you started on that. Most intro courses cover the ancient Western philosophers, whose ideas are rehashed, contested, referenced, and denied by just about everyone in Western nations. If you understand the framework of Hellenistic philosophy, it becomes so much easier to see the same thought patterns repeated in later forms of Western literature and discourse. Plus, it’s healthy to think of the big questions every once in awhile.

2. Sociology

Knowing how pervasive systematic injustice is and understanding that so many traits we assign to ourselves and others are not inherent will broaden your perspective and compel you to critically analyze the messages we send to each other, especially minorities. This level of awareness is applicable to just about any field from Marketing to Education. These classes teach you about people and societies, both of which you will have to deal with at some point.

3. Theology/Religious Studies

Just as easy as it is to blindly follow a particular faith and never question its doctrine, it’s also easy to blindly reject all religion and reduce it to pointless fairy tales that never helped anyone. If you’re a Christian, take a class about Islam. If you’re an atheist, take a class about Christian theology. The point isn’t to try to convert you or make you change your convictions, but to make yourself an informed individual about other belief systems so you don’t rely on the stereotypes fed to you on a daily basis. Both religious and non-religious people can be uneducated about faith (or lack of faith), especially faiths that are intricately tied to particular cultures. No matter the topic, the best of these classes will encourage you to question, doubt, and challenge what you hold to be true.

4. Geography

I’m not kidding when I say one of the best classes I took in college was a geography class. It seems simple, but college level geography classes tend to give you more than just “here’s this country and here’s the capitol.” You learn a little bit about each culture and the various issues they face. Plus, the West, especially the U.S., carries the stereotype of not knowing that most countries even exist. With these classes, you’ll get a good sample of how natural environments mix with political and cultural ones.

5. Critical Theory

Also known as Literary Theory, these classes will stretch your mind in ways you never thought possible. For English majors, Critical Theory improves both your writing and your thinking to the point where papers become easier. Even if you’re not an English major, a class like this is still worth taking, although it will get intense and overwhelming at times. You get an overview of the main theories people have used to approach literature and society from the classic New Criticism to Post-Colonial Theory and Deconstruction. A class like this will make you a more perceptive person.

For the most part, your schedule will be full of all your required classes, but choose those electives widely. Take a class about something you know almost nothing about, something that you know will challenge the way you think. College is all about absorbing new ideas and experiences, and one of the easiest ways to do that is in the classroom.

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