Taking classes unrelated to your curriculum is valuable


By Emma Goodwin

Before coming to college, one of my favorite teachers gave me the book “1,001 Things That Every College Student Needs to Know” by Harry H. Harrison Jr.

Because I’m the oldest child in my family, I didn’t learn any necessary skills from siblings, so I scoured the book, taking mental notes on everything that seemed particularly important.

The two tips I found most interesting were 573 (“Signing up for your school’s most bizarre class could keep you interested in staying in school”) and 578 (“Take some classes that have nothing to do with your core or major … such a class could change your entire attitude toward college”).

As an English major with minors in political science and cinema studies, I try to make an effort to take classes that, like the book said, really have nothing to do with my fields of study but have everything to do with being fun, interesting and engaging. And I think others should do the same. 

I’ve taken two such classes so far, and they have served as small additions to my schedule. Human Sexuality (CHLH 206) was two credit hours and my Social Issues Group Dialogues (EPSY 203) was only one. Neither of them directly related to my disciplines, but they still proved valuable.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Ideally, each class we take should teach us more than what’s written in its textbook — whether that’s time management or how to arrange flowers (because there is a class on that).

But when you concentrate exclusively on taking classes related to your major, you’ll likely sharpen the tools in your box rather than adding new ones to it. 

These extra classes that I was fortunate enough to take armed me with great critical thinking skills and the ability to effectively communicate. They also taught me things that I wouldn’t typically learn while analyzing literature (which I do love to do).

English classes probably won’t teach me about current issues involving disability discrimination like EPSY 203 did. Nor will they have forums held by members of the LGBTQ community like CHLH did.

Had I not taken these classes, I would be lost on the social issues they taught me about. They provided environments where I was inspired to learn about things that I might not get the chance to otherwise or in the future.

The classes that I’m talking about aren’t exclusively Gen-Eds (which can be really enticing if you choose wisely), and they’re not mindless blow-off classes. These are classes that people should be taking solely because learning is really fun and valuable, which seems to be a secret that hasn’t been revealed to the entire community yet.

I did some exploring regarding the classes that are offered here, and while I always think there could be more (I would really like a class surrounding The Beatles — just throwing that out there), I was pretty impressed. The University offers drawing and painting for non-art-majors (ART 102 and 103, respectively), a class exploring the Japanese Tea Ceremony (ARTD 209), Vegetable Gardening (HORT 105) and American Cinema Since 1950 (MACS 273). That’s just naming a few.

While I’m a student here, I intend to fit as many of these classes, and others, in my schedule as I can. They offer the opportunity to expand the brain and explore different disciplines in new and interesting ways — a privilege we sometimes only have in college.

I won’t be able to take one of these classes every semester, but with time management and some pre-planning, I’ll be able to take some here and there. 

Once we graduate, we’re going to be spending the rest of our lives in jobs that probably have something to do with our majors. Later in life, there probably won’t be many chances to take classes on Japanese tea.

But one day, if every farm in America magically vanishes and the produce aisles are left empty, you might remember the skills you learned in HORT 105. You could potentially feed your family using the last remaining vegetable garden in the country: the one in your back yard.

I know college is expensive and students are busy. But if there’s a topic that you enjoy that’s outside of your major, there’s no time like the present to explore it. A lot of interesting classes are only two hours, some of them just one. 

They fit into your schedule and challenge your way of thinking. They expand our minds in ways that our majors might not. And with registration upon us, if you have a spot in your fall schedule, I urge you to try some out.

Emma is a freshman in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].