Hi, all — we’re back today answering a great question from a fellow named Sandeep who wants to challenge himself with a tough elective outside his major, but he isn’t sure whether that’s kosher. Read on and see whether your advice for Sandeep is the same as mine.
Hello. I have a question for you.
Let’s hear it.
I am an Economics major in my junior year. As such, I have completed many economics and advanced math classes. I am thinking of taking summer classes this summer and have a choice to make. Even though I am an Economics major and taking Economics classes would make sense, I am thinking of taking a history class. This class doesn’t count towards my major but it is an advanced and challenging class about a topic that I am very much interested in.
Got it. So far, it sounds like a pretty strong case for taking the history class. But tell me more.
I am also taking an accounting class. The choice I have to make is between a management class and the history class. I am hesitant to take the management class (it counts as a major elective) because it is too general and many of my friends who took it say it was ridiculously easy. So even though taking this class would help me finish my major requirements much more quickly, I would much rather take a more challenging history class and then take a more challenging economics elective in the fall or next spring.
I’ll give you some more spelled-out reasoning below, but so far, I see no case for taking the management class. You’ll be bored and you’ll learn next to nothing. Sure, it’s an elective for your major, but like you just said, you can take a different elective later on to fulfill that same requirement — one that’s challenging and that can teach you something useful, unlike the management class (which of course I have no personal knowledge of, but I’m taking your and your friends’ word for it at this point).
I intend to apply to a Computer information systems program for Graduate school which offers internship opportunities as well. The program doesn’t require applicants to major in any particular field and hence I am thinking of taking the history class as at least I would learn something new and interesting as opposed to getting easy credits from the management class.
The case for taking the history class is only getting stronger here. Honestly, though, I don’t think the choice between the history course and the management course will have any bearing on the CIS grad program you get into or the internships you’ll get. Even if the CIS program doesn’t care what your major is, you’ll still want to perform as well as you can in your major, and this particular decision about which summer elective to take won’t affect that.
My question is: is it preferable to take a challenging class in another discipline rather than taking an easy class within my major.
Sure, as long as it doesn’t derail your program of study in any way, which clearly in this case it does not. I know I say this a lot around here, but don’t discount the unique opportunity that college affords you to study the things you enjoy and are interested in. Later on in life, those opportunities won’t be lying at your feet the way they are now.
Essentially, this boils down to the question of how you want to spend your time. You can spend your time going to a class where you’ll be learning something interesting, or you can go to a class where you will NOT be learning something interesting. There are some reasons to take easy electives sometimes — because you’re too loaded down with hard classes to take yet another one, or because you need to graduate soon because your financial aid or scholarships are running out, etc. But none of these are the case for you.
You seem to be sitting in the proverbial catbird seat, actually — you’re doing well in your major, you’re inclined to challenge yourself, your skills are extremely well-rounded (advanced math and history interest aside, your spelling, grammar and punctuation are impeccable, which is rare), and you’ve got the chance to take a class you’ll actually enjoy.
Relax, my man, and take the class. Sounds like you’ve earned it.
Does it offer any credibility about the adaptability and all-rounded skills of a student or should I simply focus taking classes within my major?
Well, I can’t sit here and say that every person who views the classes you’ve taken will immediately give you silent props for stepping out and taking a history elective (although some will). In an academic environment, such as when you’re applying to grad school, they may take note of such things and find it interesting, but it’s unlikely to be a big enough criterion to tip the scales in your favor (seems like they’ll be tipping in your favor anyway, though).
And if we’re talking about even later on when you’re trying to get a job, most employers will never even know what electives you took, because they don’t look at transcripts.
However, none of these is really the point. The point is, you’ve done well in college and in your major, and you’re well on your way to grad school it sounds like, so it’s well within your rights to reward yourself by taking an elective you want to take.
And it’s definitely nice and all that it’s a class that you think will challenge you academically, but to be honest, I’d have given you the same answer even if you’d said you wanted to take Tae Kwan Do or Pilates or tennis. I know college is a serious endeavor, and you gotta work hard, etc., but you also have to make some time for yourself and your interests; that’s important personal development as well.
Thanks in advance for any guidance.
You bet. That’s the sum total of my sage wisdom today. What about you all — what do you think he should do? What would you do?