If you’re like the millions of other college students who are going to two and four-year universities, you might be asking yourself why in the world you are required to take a psychology course, history or literature course to graduate. Many schools are requiring speech, religion, Spanish or health and fitness classes to be completed before a student can walk down the aisle for graduation. With all these extra classes that do not necessarily come under the core classes or general education but rather electives, it can be very frustrating when one sees how much extra money and time they are spending. Being of the mindset that these types of classes are a waste of time and resources I decided to talk to deans, faculty and professors to see what their opinion was behind them. What follows are the top five reasons I received.
After talking with a few Biology, Chemistry and A&P professors, the gist of what they were saying boiled down to the fact that extra courses opens up the student to more opportunities. One such concept that was given involved medicine. Many students, when they decide to do biology, chemistry biochemistry or related major, have the vision of medical school in their horizons. But as a professor who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology told me, there are many other avenues one can take with a major in one of the sciences such as chemistry, biology or a combination of both.
Many students are not aware of these opportunities until after they have taken “extra” courses. As another professor pointed out, many graduate schools are begging students to pick degrees other than medicine, law or business. There is a large gap for people in the medical field who are not necessarily treating people outright but rather researching drugs, treatment methods etc. and to be able to get into these fields one needs to do a Ph.D.
The same idea goes for IT and engineering majors. There is a lack of competent graduates in both these industries which explains why the majority of the workers in this field come from outside the United States. Many computer and engineering departments at Universities are fighting to get students into their programs where as the nursing, pre medical and business administration departments are fighting to keep students away.
According to many employers, there are a lot of lacking skills in their would be employees and many industries on a hold have pressured schools to make certain classes mandatory regardless of major. Speech, Spanish, health and fitness, psychology and others are just a few of the courses.
No doubt that during the course of your career you will be required to present at least one speech. Except for dying, public speaking has been listed as the top fear of many people. A speech class not only helps you gain confidence in addressing an audience of 50 or 5,000, but in the preparation process and concepts required to put together and deliver a great speech, presentation or lecture.
A similar concept underlines the requirement of some sort of psychology class before graduation in many colleges and universities. As an individual you will be required to interact with many different types of individuals from the courteous to the not so courteous. An introduction into the psychology behind the human mind and interaction allows people to get a better understanding and thus apply it to their everyday work routines.
Last but not least I will touch on Spanish as a required course in many states or universities. For the sake of controversy I will skip the whole illegal alien thing and just get right down to the details. Whether or not an individual is in the United States illegally or not does not negate the fact that there is a great possibility that you will have to conduct business with those who do not speak the English language very well, especially depending on where you live. Having a basic understanding of Spanish can be the difference between a point of sale and the loss of a customer or between life and death if this is a medical emergency.
Challenge the mind
Why should a pre-med student be required to take two levels of calculus and physics when they are not planning to split the atom or explain quantum theory to their patients? Well other than the fact that many pre-med students decide to switch majors in graduate school to something more research oriented where a solid foundation in physics and calculus is required, studying many of these other courses challenges the mind and causes the student to think outside the box.
Studies have proven that listening to classical music is one of the best ways to expand the abilities of the mind. Math is also a great way to challenge the mind and as the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you will lose it. As a doctor, one you will be continually challenged to find new ways of dealing with age-old problems and this is where all those hard courses might come in handy.
Other majors such as law might not have a set of stringent requirements before one need apply but law schools are generally more likely to accept a student who has some major in the arts than the sciences.
Develop a love for other things
Humanities, literature and other electives might not be at the top of the list for most students, on the other hand it is the job of the educational institution that you attend to give you a broad view of what is available. Needless to say this might come at the expense of time and money and for most students they might not enjoy listening to some German poem read to them or watching to Hamlet. But if you’ve never heard a live orchestra performance in your life, how do you know you won’t like it. I have heard from many students who have fallen in love with either the performing arts, classical literature/music etc. by being required to take a class in such an area. You never know, it could just appeal to you.
Well rounded educational experience
According to many of the deans and faculty I have spoken with, electives provide a “well rounded” learning experience. Taking classes not required by your major gives you a broad view of the world and educates you in ideas and concepts that may or may not be useful to you later on in life. For instance, unless you are a journalist or a researcher, you will probably never need to write a paper in APA or MLA format. However, having the knowledge on how to do that gives you a solid background that if the need should arise you are not lost.
Many educators view the whole college experience as not only a tool for getting you into the job of your choice, but giving you the tools needed to compete in almost any sector you may choose even if it is not required for your major and that is why according to them, electives are so important.