To Read or Not to Read? The Case for Taking Classes Outside Your Major

Sheetal Madnani Chemical, Free Time, Sheetal, Viterbi Life Leave a Comment

This semester, I had the opportunity to take a Liberal Arts Reading Salon class here at USC titled CORE 200, which involved a class-curated reading list that covered an impressive eight works over the course of the semester. Prior to taking this class, I was already enrolled in an 18 unit course load, but my best friend convinced me that adding on a two unit class (graded credit/no-credit luckily!) would be a challenging and novel experience, which it definitely has been. 

The class was part of USC’s Thematic Option honors program, and although I am not a member of the programme, there exist opportunities to take Core classes as a non-TO student; for me specifically, this class covered a requirement for a minor in Classical Perspectives that I had declared during my freshman year. As a result, I was also able to get the extra cost of taking two additional units covered by the USC Academic Achievement award, which is a tuition benefit that USC provides to encourage students to pursue multiple degree objectives. The Academic Achievement award is a great way to take extra classes to satisfy a minor or double major without having to pay for an extra semester of tuition by graduating late, and is just one of many opportunities USC provides to facilitate interdisciplinary learning! While tacking on two extra units simply to pursue a class you are interested in is not the right decision for everyone, as someone who enjoys taking classes outside engineering, this absolutely was the right decision for me. 

While some engineering students love to take classes that link their interests in history and the arts to scientific principles (for an example, check out PHIL 245g: Science, Knowledge and Objectivity), I am a strong advocate for taking classes that have absolutely no relation to your major whatsoever, to broaden your horizons and perhaps stumble upon something new that you truly grow to love. For example, I took a class last semester in the political science department titled POSC 130: Law, Politics and Public Policy, which introduced me to a new area of study that I found truly fascinating! While there was almost no overlap between the content of my political science class and the classes I had been taking at the time for my major, I found that a lot of the analytical skills I had picked up in my engineering classes were very applicable in this new context. In addition, I loved the class so much that it was a big factor in my decision to switch my minor from Classical Perspectives to Law and Public Policy this semester! 

Thus, my advice is to take advantage of the incredible academic diversity present here at USC and take at least one class that has absolutely no relation to your field of study, whether it be a four unit class for a General Education requirement or a smaller two unit class (like a reading salon!). It is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, learn something new, and perhaps even open the door to a new area of interest!

About the Author

Sheetal is a junior studying Chemical Engineering. Her favourite topics to talk endlessly about are politics, international relations, and classical mythology!


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