Melissa Holzberg: Choose classes outside your comfort zone

I had just graduated high school, was on my way to Colonial Inauguration and had yet to draft my schedule. I was terrified I would pick the wrong classes and end up wasting my time.

I decided I was going to be a political communication major the same day I visited GW as a junior in high school. At first, being so sure of my major stopped me from exploring other subject areas and classes.

But in my second semester, I left my comfort zone. I filled an art requirement for GPAC in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences by taking a dean’s seminar on the history of ballet — a class completely different from my major — and I’m so glad I did. Not only did this one class open my mind to new ideas and ways of thinking, but it also led to me to declare a dance minor and inspired me to become a part of the department of theater and dance.

Even if you think you already know what you want your major to be, you should try taking a completely unrelated class anyway. Take a course that excites you, not just something that fills a requirement.

“We encourage all students to explore. That’s what a liberal arts education is about. So whether they come in knowing exactly what they want to do, or come in as exploratory, we invite them to explore,” Michelle Steiner, director of undergraduate advising in CCAS, said.

Steiner said students should also talk to faculty and their advisers when choosing courses to take.

“Students can have meaningful conversations with advisers about their lives, their passions, their interests both in and out of school, their strengths — and through these conversations, students begin to make connections between these things and potential areas of study,” Steiner said.

Due to recent changes to GPAC, many freshmen may be coming into GW with credits that will allow them to place out of certain requirements. If you’re one of those freshmen, you’ll have a little bit of extra credit space with which to play around. Use that space to explore the departments that have nothing to do with your major. Take a class that will make you a more knowledgeable person, not just one that you need to graduate.

About 50 percent of students are arriving at universities this fall with a major will change that major at some point during their college experience. Don’t be afraid to be a part of that statistic.

“First-year students should feel free to explore a range of different courses and know that many people change their minds about majors,” said professor Christy Zink, director of the University Writing Program and an associate writing professor. “That’s what college is supposed to be for: finding that true interest and study that you want to pursue, but also connecting with the wider world of knowledge in a range of studies.”

It isn’t just about exploring, though. At GW, much of our focus tends to be on internships and post-college plans. Having a diverse transcript and range of knowledge sets you apart from other candidates, and may even help you land an internship or job.

I took biological anthropology last year to fulfill one of my lab science requirements, and it ended up being one of the smartest decisions of my freshman year. The class sounded interesting when I first read its syllabus, but what I ended up gaining from the course was a new way to look at theories and perspectives — a skill that I know will come in handy in my future classes.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that these next four years aren’t just to prepare yourself for your future career. It’s OK to come to freshman orientation without your course schedule for the next four years completely charted out.

Don’t let the pressure to have the future laid out stop you from finding your passion.

Melissa Holzberg, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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