For many of us, college is the first time that we have the ability to study one favorite subject in-depth– our major– yet, we must remember our perspectives as humans and even within our majors will fail to grow properly if we shun other disciplines. Learning different perspectives and ways of thinking are key to becoming a forward-thinking, rational individual.
To that end, I strongly encourage a few classes that everyone should take, regardless of your major and interests.
Computer Science– Nowadays, computer science is increasingly one of the most popular and lucrative majors. However, there are many people (like me), who found it difficult and did not excel in it. Nonetheless, computer science gave me valuable insight in thinking small-to-big, going backwards and looping– all ways of thinking I had never encountered before but now use in my daily thinking. Exploring different methods of thought is critical to becoming a good reasoner, in whatever you decide to pursue.
Formation of Identity– Of course, there is no course called “Formation of Identity.” However, any class that talks about identity formation, whether individual or societal, ranging from ethnic identities in South Asia to transgender identity in the West, is a great eye-opener. These courses on identity help us to understand our own roles in society better, and help to clarify the subtleties the ever-hot topic of equity.
Macroeconomics– Our lives are significantly affected by money, yet many do not understand the basic concepts of interest rates, what the Federal Reserve system actually does, or what “quantitative easing” and “austerity” mean. Honestly, learning the broad principles that govern our economy by yourself can be daunting and full of jargon; thus, having the opportunity to learn it in simple terms in college is something that will be indispensable in the long term. After you have mastered the simple concepts, you will be able to approach the jargon and at least be able to piece together quickly enough the meaning.
Statistics (and if you can, Econometrics)— I swear, this is not my inner economist speaking, but statistics are thrown at us every which way in this age of “big data.” The media is increasingly fond of authoritatively saying “The data show..”, a phrase that even I used to think was infallible. I mean, if the data says so, then it must be true. Little did the naive me know, data can be manipulated in many, many ways. Learning statistics helps us figure out if the data manipulations are reasonable and subsequently, if we can trust them. Taking it a step further, econometrics introduces you to more sophisticated analyses that attempt to prove causation; like does smoking cause cancer? Does playing Mozart to babies cause the babies’ IQ to go up? As our society continues to go nuts about number-crunching, a basic knowledge of statistics is a must.