Colleges should let students take the classes they want

Katie Elvin

It’s that time of year again; the make or break, the start of the next big-step, the excitement and dread, the end of life as you know it. It’s time for college.

The college acceptance, and sadly, rejection letters that come trickling in from the various places you applied may very well leave you biting your nails, pulling your hair, or jumping for joy. No matter where you live or what high school you attend applying for colleges is essentially the same. Although, in some cases, that may be the only similarity.

Colleges used to be a tool that helped people decide where they wanted to head with their life. Now, though, most people have an idea of what they have planned for later years and colleges have changed accordingly. Some colleges require you to decide upon a major before entering that institution of learning. You can change your major, but that could potentially set you years behind in school.

Having a set major and career path before you even start college is more of a requirement now-a-days, which isn’t really bad at all. I mean, that way you get to study what you are actually interested in and what will affect the rest of your life. Well, at least that’s the way it is at Oxford.

Oxford University in England has students in “colleges” within the university where they study their major in great detail. Once they have finished school, they come out as experts in their subject with immense knowledge on the subject of their choice.

Here in America, we too set our students on a strict path of a major, but we don’t support it. Not at all like Oxford does. We have you take many extra classes that are required to graduate college but have nothing to do with what you are studying. Imagine our A-G Requirements, but each with a sub-heading of additional classes you need to take.

If my brother, a chemistry major at UCSC, were to change his major to physics, it would add at least another year of college to his schedule. But even if he sticks with chemistry, he is still required to take theater, economic and art classes. There is no doubt that he will never use or remember what he learns in those classes because he is not interested in anything that veers off of the math or science path of learning. With our school system he is forced to take his time, attention and energy away from the things that really matter to him and direct it toward what are to him useless classes.

Yes, you may say that he gets a broader education this way, but isn’t it better to become an expert in something that you truly enjoy than dabble around in many different subjects learning things with no practical application? (Honestly, when is the history of “The Muppets” going to apply to a chemistry-based career?)

At Oxford you become a specialist in something, you come out of college actually having learned and are ready to become a capable member of society. Not so much in America.

Don’t believe me?

Take my mother for example. From the time she was a little girl she wanted to be a lawyer and at her first seminar for law school, they said that it didn’t matter what she learned during college, she wouldn’t use any of it in law school. Just take what you’re interested in and get good grades. And she, in fact, did not use any of the knowledge acquired those years; she could have gone straight to law school and ended with the same result.

But with this economy we cannot afford to pay for four years of fun. We do not have the resources or the time either. It would be all around more efficient, pleasurable and useful to have a college system that helps the students focus in on their major and interests.

What do you think?