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Choosing College Courses And Selecting A Major
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In a time of rising college tuition and higher rates on college loans, it seems prudent to decide on a major quickly and focus on the necessary courses. So many young people express concern about paying tuition for general courses, required for a degree, but in their eyes scarcely relevant to their chosen career. How do you reconcile general education requirements, or liberal arts degrees, with the high price of tuition, the competitive job market, and the need for graduates with very specialized skills?
What many entering freshmen don’t yet realize is that most of them will change jobs multiple times during their working careers. It is hard to predict the path of a career that may move between several disciplines. These students may return to school for additional degrees or training and find different ways to apply their knowledge in existing jobs. While a liberal arts degree, or gen ed requirements, may seem to be of little value, and it may be hard to justify in terms of money spent, the reality is that most college graduates will use a variety of skills and knowledge throughout their careers.
I don’t necessarily advocate signing up for every random course that fits your schedule. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try pottery, or guitar. Try it and see what it’s like. College should give you a chance to explore new things. I learned in college that horseback riding was expensive and I didn’t really like it that much. Music theory (sedentary as it was) intrigued me far more. When I finally got to graduate school, as a writer, I had to choose one elective, a studio art course that made me feel like a fish out of water. It wasn’t until I got to the end of that semester – as a graduate student returning to school in mid-life – that I understood how much I already knew about art and how interested I was in writing about it more.
How important was all of this to my career? I don’t really need to know how to play the piano, or how to transpose a score from clarinet to oboe, but as a journalist I’ve written many stories about music, art, history and even horses. Almost every course that I took as a requirement or an elective contributed in some way to my skills as a journalist.
Did I need those courses in order to write about such subjects? Not necessarily, but my interest and exposure to different subjects allowed me to develop certain interests that did pay off professionally. I was better prepared to write about art and music, for instance, just from my brief exposure to those subjects in one-semester courses.
I know a nurse who is an accomplished poet, a real estate agent who is a fine artist, many teachers who are published writers, and people who majored in Spanish or Arabic or some other language who find themselves uniquely qualified for careers in medicine, social services, foreign service, international aid and a range of other fields.
Bottom line – what you love might dovetail nicely with a chosen career in ways that you might never have considered possible. Your college years are a great time to explore different things and while you don’t want to dawdle on the way to a degree and career, it is impossible to predict how that hobby, interest or elective many suddenly look large as you shift from one job to another.
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