Irene Ly: Stop asking, ‘When am I going to use this?’

There’s one question we’ve all asked ourselves at least once while sitting in class: When am I going to use this? We probably wonder whether certain classes are valuable more often than we’d like to admit.

This common question stems at least partially from our laziness and narcissism, as well as our obsession with being productive here at GW. Why should I write this paper when I could be watching Netflix or catching up on sleep? Writing this paper won’t make it any easier to reach my career goal, so there’s no point, right?

However, I think the real reason that whiny voice in our heads keeps asking that question is that we’re picking the wrong classes. With class registration right around the corner, choose classes that will keep you from asking yourself “When am I going to use this?” throughout the semester.

As nerdy as it sounds, when I first started classes at GW last fall, I was a wide-eyed freshmen who actually enjoyed going to class – and not just because college was still new and fresh to me. Out of the four classes I took, I genuinely liked three of them, and the most interesting was my University Writing class focused on Asian-American experiences.

As a psychology major, the content of that class may not have been extremely relevant to what I want to do in the future. Yet, I don’t recall ever wondering, “When am I going to use this?” Instead, I was interested in the course, so I willingly took part in class discussions. I felt what I learned in the class was valuable, even if it won’t lead me to a career, because it made me more aware of my identity.

Now that I’m a sophomore, the extent to which I’m actually engaged in class material has decreased. This semester has been my worst, since I’m only taking one class that genuinely interests me.

Although it can be hard to do with all the major and general education requirements we have, at the very least, we should all shoot for registering for at least one class we’re interested in, even if it doesn’t fulfill any requirements.

In my first semester, I also took a dean’s seminar in constitutional law. Since I’m already a social science major, I didn’t need to take the course to fill a requirement. Instead, I took a chance with the course because I wanted to explore different fields. I ended up loving the class, finding a possible career field I’d like to pursue, building a close relationship with a professor and registering for the second part of the course she taught. It was one decision I came close to not making, but it ended up being one of the smartest decisions I’ve made at GW.

There are a variety of classes you can take to fulfill certain requirements, but if none of them pique your interest, spread things out so that you’re just taking one or two required classes per semester instead of jamming them in at once. For those of us in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, we could consider spreading our GPAC requirements over our four years instead of trying to polish off the list by the end of freshman year.

Of course, I understand not everyone can do this. Students in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, for example, just don’t have the flexibility CCAS students have. But at some point, everyone will have at least one elective that can be utilized to take something different that attracts them. Some people may also just prefer to take courses that they know they’ll be able to use. Everyone has a different idea of what’s interesting, and what matters is that you’re immersed in the content in some way.

However, sometimes we just won’t be interested. And the best thing to do is just take it day by day. Stay on top of the class, because it will be a lot more bearable to do a little homework or reading each night instead of trying to cram in several chapters of boring material the night before the exam. Then, get to planning how you can make the next semester better.

We need to remind ourselves that we still have some control over our education and the classes we take, so we should make the effort to make our class time at GW as enjoyable as possible. Don’t chalk up your crappy semester to not having a choice in your schedule.

Next semester, I want to be that wide-eyed freshman again, not a sophomore who’s nodding off in class or just struggling to push to the finish line. I want that whiny voice asking, “When am I going to use this?” out of my head.

Irene Ly, a sophomore majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.