Opinions, Column

Take The Classes You Actually Want

With the start of November comes more midterm stress, a second wave of fall, and the dreaded week of class registration. For me, this little time of year has always brought about frantic planning and research. Of course, when I first came to Boston College, I registered for classes with vigor, drawing up a long list of all the courses that appealed to me. But even then, reconciling class times and reviews from Rate My Professors has always been a chore and a half. Though we have some leeway with the add/drop period, I’m always worried that if I don’t get things right in the allotted 15 minutes that my entire semester will be either unfulfilling or crushingly stressful. This year has brought about an added pressure in that I’m closing in on the culminating courses for my major. When I realized I only had a handful of courses to complete before I had completed by major in English, my immediate thought was, Now what?

After an insightful adviser meeting, a dinner full of rants to a friend, and plenty of searches on Agora, I’ve decided, for a lack of better wording, to screw the plan. I know it seems trite for me to tell students at a Jesuit university to “take the classes you genuinely want to take,” but folks, that’s what I’m here to do.

Initially, in my endeavors to pick classes, I had wanted to take courses that would eventually lead to another major or minor besides English. I also had the goal of law school in mind and tried to engineer my course load through the perspective of what would look good after I graduated. But no matter what course catalogs I studied or what majors I looked into, there was always some aspect that simply didn’t appeal to me the way my English major had.

Throughout my catalog searches, though, I found quite a selection of individual classes that interested me. I wanted to learn more about Korean history under Japanese colonization. I wanted to go back to calculus and regain the math skills I had long since forgotten. And I wanted to take a course analyzing children’s literature—a course I had heard about during orientation, before I had even come to BC. I remember the class had overwhelmed me with excitement about my English major. I remembered how unconcerned I had been about courses fitting into a certain field of study, and how open I had been to any class that pricked my ears.

For this registration cycle, I think we all need to recapture some of that magic. This semester has been a rough one for a lot of us, and in the immortal words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, it’s time to “treat yo’ self.” Let’s make next semester one where we’re excited for the courses we’re taking, one where at least one class is a class we’ve always wanted to take. 

I know there are so many students at BC who are majoring in something they’re good at but have other interests they want to pursue. Now is the time for them to go for those random subjects they’ve always wanted to learn more about. BC offers so many intriguing courses, on anything from climate change to sexuality. As a well-rounded, Jesuit person for others, you must have interests outside of your major—why not take classes on those interests, especially if they’re the subjects you’re actually passionate about?

BC’s far too expensive of a school to spend four years taking classes you’re only mildly interested in. Of course, I applaud those pursuing practical majors, and I know these choices will pay off in the future—quite literally. Often, a certain major or minor is simply a good financial decision, a way to ensure return on investment. But I think there’s also something to be said for the loss of value in taking courses you dislike. It’s not a good financial decision to spend four years studying something that makes you want to tear your hair out.

I’m not going to try to convince you that you should be an English major (although you should—English majors rock). What I am going to encourage, however, is a look into department catalogs unrelated to your major. Challenge yourself to study something you love, or something you’ve always been interested in. Put yourself in a creative sphere again—maybe a field you haven’t given much thought to since you were a kid, trying out any subject or idea offered in school. And don’t just do it for your transcript. Don’t consider how a course is going to look to admissions panels or on applications. Consider yourself and what you want to study before all else.

As cliché as it may sound, you’re never going to get these four years back. In other words, you’ll never learn and take classes in this type of environment again. Even graduate schools and online classes will be different settings altogether. So, if you’re going to do something new next year (for the new you that’ll roll around by January), I would suggest having fun with your schedule come registration. At the end of the day, all majors and tracks aside, you’ll remember the classes you enjoyed most, and you’ll be glad you took the risk to sign up for them.

November 18, 2019