The Importance of Taking Classes Outside Your Major

By Amanda Harbrecht, Social Media Intern

Many students find university-required classes to be annoying and even burdensome. They either see the classes as nonessential to their career goals or as uninteresting to them personally, but either way they see those classes as a waste of their time. Why then do universities have these classes? The benefits for students in taking classes outside of their major or concentration are not just being a more well rounded individual, although that is certainly part of it. Whether it is a university mandated class or an elective, there are more reasons than you might think to take a class outside your major.

1.  Academic benefits.

Taking classes outside your college or major puts variety into your schedule. Rather than having all your classes focus on one or two areas of study, you might have classes that alternate the right and left side of the brain equally. These classes give you a solid background in a range of areas, which makes for a well-rounded individual. This diversity of classes enhances critical thinking, as well as the development of other skills. If you want to improve your writing, take an English or philosophy class. If you want to learn more about analyzing and understanding media, take a media literacy class. Even taking a single semester of a class can dramatically increase your knowledge and abilities in a given area.  

2.  Social benefits.

Taking classes outside your major exposes you to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and it also introduces you to new people. Whether it is a university mandated fine arts credit or a social science elective, taking a class outside your major means that the majority of your classmates will have academic experiences different from your own. Being part of a diverse group creates an opportunity to learn and interact with new ways of thinking. No two people are going to approach a question the same way. Exposure to these differences can open up your eyes to new ways of doing things. You will increase your self-knowledge and will learn from your peer group as a whole. A diverse group offers a greater opportunity for innovation and creativity. On a similar note, taking a class outside your college, major or concentration allows you to meet the faculty of different departments. Faculty members at any school are a fantastic resource and you might surprise yourself by how much you learn from them if you are willing to make the effort to reach out to them and seek out their guidance.

3. Personal benefits.

University requirements and non-major or concentration related electives force you out of your comfort zone, and being pushed out of your comfort zone allows you to learn so much more about yourself. In a political science class you might learn more about your own opinions and political ideas. In a philosophy class you might learn about your values and how to defend them. The list goes on, but the idea is that trying something new can help you better understand your own strengths and weakness or your likes and dislikes. Even if these reasons do not sound like practical benefits at the moment, keep in mind that employers are attracted to students who challenge themselves and are not afraid to step outside their comfort zones. Frequently this comes up in interviews when employers ask behavioral questions such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to overcome an obstacle.” Classes taken outside your major are often full of new experiences and challenges that can be applied to answer the questions interviewers ask. 

College life can be hectic and there are many different options for spending your time. While it might seem like taking a required class or an elective is not an effective use of your time, it is important to remember that college is an opportunity to learn about yourself and the world. While in college you have resources and access to fields of study you will not be able to pursue after graduation. Instead of fighting and avoiding classes outside of their majors or concentrations, students should embrace these classes. Students who are more open to learning something new will find that they actually benefit more from such courses and they also get ready to enter life beyond college. After all, in every aspect of our professional and personal lives, we will have to take on tasks that are required.  The sooner we get ready to adjust to these situations the better off we will be in the long run.