One thing that I found both while in college and talk to friends is that there are certain classes that were more useful than others. Sometimes, these classes are immediately apparent (I’m thinking abnormal psychology, that increased my hypochondria!), but sometimes they aren’t. I took some classes in college that I thought were going to be immensely useful and turned out not to be (still not sure why I thought “history of glass art” would be useful). The classes that were the most valuable, I only realized years after taking them, were the ones that changed the way I looked at life in general and the ones that broadened my skills and understanding of how the world work. Here’s a list of seven classes that I would suggest taking if you have a little extra room in your schedule.
Business Writing – I found this course to be useful because when I got into the “real world,” I knew how to write poignant e-mails, draft memos (that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to send out), write up meeting minutes, create a PowerPoint presentation for a business meeting, and generally communicate professional in writing. It ended up helping me a lot with my first real job, and I took it just because it fit into my schedule. (As a philosophy major, my writing was something very different from business at the time).
Introduction to Anthropology – If possible, I would actually suggest two classes in anthropology (one biological and cultural), but if you only have room for one, take the one that is a general introduction. Students do not get an introduction to anthropology in high school and often just do not know what it is (they think Bones or Indiana Jones). These courses often fulfill science or social science GE requirements, so they should be easy to fit into your schedule. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of exactly what it means to be human, where we came from, and how similar everyone is (regardless of “race,” language, religion, or region of origin). In addition, you’ll learn to understand yourself better as a biological and cultural being.
Introduction to Astronomy – I suggest Astronomy for two reasons. First, students do not normally have a formal class in high school that introduces them to the basic concepts of astronomy (like there is for chemistry or biology) so it will add to you general knowledge set. Second, understanding how the universe works allows others things to be put into perspective (e.g., the possibility of alien life, the age of the earth, that you are not the center of the universe). Simply put, I found the class both informative and humbling, and I can understand what they are talking about on the Discovery Channel (sometimes).
Introduction to Film Studies – Television and movies are such a big part of American culture, and, while I’m not a big movie fan, this course taught me to appreciate them more. Some of my friends who love movies said that it helped them understand why they loved them. You’ll look at films in ways that you never have before. I learned what went into making films, what makes a movie “good” or “bad,” and how to analyze plots, themes, lighting effects, etc. It’s one of those classes that changes your perception and increases your ability to successfully mingle at parties (now that you can talk about why Memento was awesome)!
Introduction to Logic – One of my former bosses once told me “logical thinking is a skill most workers just do not have,” and she’s been right. This class will teach you how to argue intellectually, find flaws in thinking, and critically analyze pretty much anything. The course really did teach me to reasonably solve problems and see through fallacious beliefs and opinions of both myself and others.
Introduction to Statistics – Most people, I’ve found, do not know much about statistics (and even less about they can be manipulated). Having this course will help you understand what it means for a finding to be “significant” and you finally get what all those reporters, scientists, and doctors are saying. Plus, it is one of those classes that most students do not have in high school, so it will just add to your knowledge base. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding.
Personal Finance – Yeah, when I signed up for this course, I already knew how to manage my money, balance my checkbook, and read credit card information sheets, and I only took this class because I needed an elective that fit into my schedule. But, boy, did I not know what I did not know. I did not know about the stock market, investing, retirement savings, or credit score information. As I get older and older, this class’s information becomes more and more pertinent and I see its value more over time. It provided an introduction to things that are more important to my life than I could have thought ten years ago.