The Benefits of Taking a Wide Variety of College Classes

College is a time of self discovery, and there is no better way to figure out your strengths and interests than by taking a variety of college classes.

As a student, I have taken a wide array of courses, and I am continually surprised by how deeply they mesh. For instance, taking history and psychology courses has given me insight and understanding in my literature courses. Knowing the backgrounds and mindsets of authors and the contexts in which they wrote makes their stories come to life in a whole new way.

Whatever classes you are interested in, there are clear benefits to branching out while you are in college. Let’s explore some of the primary benefits to course variety.

Examining Options for Your Future

Taking a wide variety of college classes allows you to explore different fields to find what you are most interested in. According to the United States Department of Education, one in three college students will change their major at least once. There may be concern or anxiety for students who are thinking about changing their major, but the fact is, changing your major is normal and quite common. The goal is discovering what sparks your imagination and interest, and taking various courses facilitates that process.

“Taking a variety of classes allows students to identify their passion and career calling—they just need to keep an eye out for the signs,” says Brian Collisson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Azusa Pacific University. “For instance, if a student can’t wait to attend a specific course, talks about what they are learning in the course all the time, is excited to do the reading, or the topic just seems to come naturally to them, those are all signs they’re in the right field.”

He added that noticing which courses are more difficult to engage in can be good feedback that the field may not be your ultimate destination.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to push past your personal boundaries when selecting courses, says Michael Dean Clark, Ph.D., associate professor of English. “Don’t avoid courses simply because they seem intimidating or you fear you won’t do well in them. We often do not know what we are capable of until we are outside our comfort zone. Instead, consider the classes you plan to take in light of where you want to be as a person and a professional.” The best way to see yourself in a field is to get first-hand exposure through a class.

Making Connections Across Subjects

A huge advantage to taking a variety of classes is that many subjects, even seemingly disparate ones, connect with each other. Collisson points out that “certain subjects, like psychology, are hub disciplines that inform and provide meaningful implications for countless other fields, including nursing, biology, and business.” Layering these types of classes adds a depth of learning that would not otherwise be possible.

Taking different kinds of classes also allows you to meet people who you would never encounter in your own major. While it is important to have friends and classmates who are pursuing similar things as you, it is equally beneficial to have connections with different interests. Branching out this way lets you make new academic and social connections that can create a real difference in your life.

Preparing for Life After Graduation

Yes, your major courses are a strong foundation for your career, yet the elective classes you choose will also continue to play a role after you graduate. That’s because the ability to blend skill sets and knowledge can translate directly into future career success.

For example, employers often seek well-rounded candidates. If you want to work in a technical field, adding in creative abilities may give you a competitive edge. Likewise, if English or writing classes are not your favorite now, they will pay off later. No matter the profession, employers almost always take writing skills into consideration during the interview process.

Collisson recommends chatting with a mentor or advisor about courses that interest you. “They can help you discern what you want to do in life after your undergraduate program and what experiences you can get involved in today to maximize your career aspirations or graduate school,” he said.

Overall, exploring a variety of fields as a college student can give you the boost you need to find your calling and begin living it out.