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Columnist Josie Haneklau argues that taking classes outside one's major such as writing classes can benefit their career path in the long run. 

Many college students don’t have a solidified plan — or perhaps even a first clue — about what their career path will look like. In fact, 20-50% of students enter college with their major as undecided and well over half of student populations change their major at least once. This initial indecisiveness can make for a stressful time deciding what classes to take. Students shouldn’t be wary — even the ones who think they know for certain what career path they’re taking — of enrolling in classes outside their comfort zones. It may open students’ eyes to an unthought-of field of study they truly enjoy. 

Colleges typically offer more divergent and extensive classes than high school, so taking a class about a subject a student’s not familiar with may spark a previously unknown interest. Taking these types of courses also open one’s mind to a new way of thinking. Someone who’s  clearly right-brained should purposefully try to take left-brain classes and vise versa. This can lead to a more diverse, open-minded and innovative way of thinking, even if a student doesn’t end up choosing that career path. Seeing problems from a new light can aid in understanding other people’s line of thought. 

Many colleges require an elective or general education requirement that forces students out of their comfort zones by making a slew of classes from various fields mandatory. Therefore, taking additional exploratory classes shouldn’t be viewed as a waste of time, considering they must be taken anyway to obtain a degree.

For students who already have a solid idea of what they’re interested in and may feel like electives are unnecessary, many elective classes can be tailored to that particular subject, even if they seem unrelated at first. For example, a student who’s interested in marketing may benefit greatly from taking extensive writing courses, because they improve communication skills, which are essential to a career in marketing. Perhaps through this writing course the student may realize their interest in marketing was centered around communication and switch their major in effect.

A math major who takes no elective courses is constantly surrounded by like-minded classmates. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s important to meet people who are different as well, and taking classes outside of a baseline interest allows for that. Spending time around people with varying interests allows for beliefs and viewpoints to be challenged — and opens the mind. Even if that same math major genuinely has no interest in taking an art elective class, it’s at least a nice mental break from the same repetition of their regular classes and material.

While not every college requires students to take extensive elective classes, it’s certainly something that students should do for themselves. College classes are a lot more interesting with some variety, and they become even more fascinating when students discover what they’re truly interested in.  

Josie Haneklau is a sophomore political science and psychology double major. Contact Josie at hanekljr@dukes.jmu.edu.