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Courses Keeping up with courses un-related to your major.

  1. May 10, 2012 #1
    Hello, I was wondering if anyone had tips for dealing with credits that are just required for your curriculum. I'm an Electrical Engineer Major, and usually get pretty good grades in my math, physics, and programming courses, but then my GPA is pulled down by classes like jogging, deaf culture, and other things I find extremely boring and unusable.

    I noticed that if I find myself doing something only for the grade, it quickly becomes unbearable. Normally I try to just stay interested and involved in subject matter, but for classes like jogging the 'subject matter' is literally just remembering to keep a log and hand pointless assignments with arbitrarily strict criteria so it can be validated as an actual course.

    Does anyone else have this problem? Do there tend to be less of these courses later in your academic career? Should I just get used to it because you have to do boring pointless things throughout life? Any input is appreciated. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 10, 2012 #2
    Those classes which are "extremely boring and unusable" are actually good lessons in having a job and life.

    When you graduate you'll notice a lot of your work time is spent doing things like "keep a log and hand pointless assignments with arbitrarily strict criteria so it can be validated as an actual work activity".

    So work hard at those "pointless" courses. The ability to succeed at things one feels pointless or boring is the mark of a true professional.

    If, when you start working, you only apply yourself to tasks you think are interesting, or you deem worthy, you're not going to get very far.
  4. May 10, 2012 #3
    I went to college wanting to major in history. I had to take an econ class, and I liked it so much, I decided to change majors. Then I had to take a calc. class and decided to switch to math. I just graduated a couple of days ago. So, I had to take classes unrelated to my major and ended up switching to one of them. I am now going to grad school for math. The point is you should try your best to enjoy the classes. However, having to take classes like "deaf culture" might be a bit challenging! That just sounds plain stupid.
  5. May 11, 2012 #4
    Yes, this is true. Sorry, this rant-post was half motivated by me just kind of being angry that my GPA was being brought down by these classes. I'm a bit calmer now.

    I guess your right though, saying they are pointless just makes them more difficult...
  6. May 11, 2012 #5


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    Courses outside of one's major are not pointless. They are quite important to others and might be helpful to you one day, too. They can be quite valuable and enriching.

    Just take the time to appreciate what you have and take advantage of what you can learn. I never took a course in ornithology (though I love birds!), but I took courses in ecology, geology, and astronomy that were unrelated to my major. Live to learn and learn to live. Stole that from a stupid Harley slogan, but it's true. We all need to learn and evolve as people, and that's a big part of life.
  7. May 11, 2012 #6


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    Make it an objective of the course to learn at least a couple of new things about that subject. That should keep you focused. As Turbo pointed out, your non-major courses are still valuable and they broaden your education. Becoming too specialized can be a detriment in the long term.
  8. May 11, 2012 #7
    Jogging? Really? I wish I had the opportunity to take a class like that since I love running.

    I'm an EE major also but I took interesting classes like macroeconomics, international relations, etc.
  9. May 11, 2012 #8
    I always try to take classes that interested me at a basic level, even though they were required - that way they're not as much of a drag.

    If you need to take a high-level english class - look for a lit class that might interest you (fiction, fantasy, mythology, etc). If you need a humanities: same thing, find something that would have interesting subject matter.
  10. May 12, 2012 #9


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    I'd like to add that some of the most enjoyable courses that I took were courses outside my major. My honors adviser (Dr. Cecil Rhodes - professor emeritus) gently guided me out of engineering and into liberal arts. This was not a subtle detour.

    I was granted a 5-year full scholarship in chemical engineering (pulp and paper funding) and when I turned it down, the department's financial adviser said that he would call my parents. I told him to suit himself. My mother would understand my choices, and my father would not have given a damn. I would not have chosen a large land-grant university to study English lit, Philosophy, etc, but it happened. (Thanks, Dr. Rhodes- nice old fellow....)
  11. May 12, 2012 #10
    I have the problem in a way. When I had to take these courses, I found I study for them much more than my core classes and that I had bad experiences studying for them. It's just, when you do something more technical, you know when you know the concepts. I have a well-defined end point to my studying. When you study Greek mythology and an anthology of writings related to it, I feel like I cannot be done studying until I memorize every tiny fact. It drives me crazy and is very unpleasant. This is only the case for instructors who don't hold your hand in terms of what needs to be known (which is really a necessity or else they make you go through what I went through -- The topic is just too large and open-ended not to be specific about what needs memorization). They were always easy courses, though. I over studied in a huge way to make sure I didn't ruin my GPA over some class typically known to be easy.

    And to answer your other question, the deeper you get into it, I think the fewer classes like that you have to take. For example, a masters in EE where I am has 30 hours of EE/MATH/or otherwise permitted by your major professor. There are no "arts and humanities" etc.

    I'm also with you on this in a big way. Having a student read a couple pieces of Plato and memorize a few vocabulary words does absolutely nothing for him in general. Having him keep up a jogging log does nothing for him in general. As engineers, we face so much difficulty in our classes due to a starvation of math: We need more math, especially before beginning physics and engineering coursework. But instead, we are told to read about Plato and keep a log of jogging. They could even rework the standard 2 or 3 English classes (or whatever) into a specialized sequence of "clear, technical writing" without the useless focus on literature.
    Last edited: May 12, 2012
  12. May 12, 2012 #11
    Do you mean the composition requirements? I'm not sure how other schools structure such classes, but the composition courses at my community college emphasize clear, technical writing, just as you suggested. This has helped immensely for my general science classes.
  13. May 12, 2012 #12
    For electrical engineering here, I had only "regular" English classes -- reading stories, poetry, writing persuasion papers and other types of papers, and so on. I'm ok with reading these things and writing those things, since if it sounds good for English class it will honestly probably sound good in a conference paper (to an extent), but I do not enjoy being graded for these assignments.

    Maybe as a solution, the courses like this should simply be pass or fail. That would reduce the stress of being placed into a world in which I am untrained with the expectation of satisfactory work.

    I would even suggest these courses have no grades. They should be more playful, less serious, and with less impact. Then the student, if he wants, can explore the topic with no stress due to there being no effect on his GPA. You might say, "What happens if most students do nothing?" I don't just see that as a problem. Sure, there will be tons that do nothing, but I don't think it's a big deal.
  14. May 30, 2012 #13
    Can you take such classes pass/fail? My college only lets you do that with electives, not distribution or major requirements, but I think other schools are more lenient.

    I went to a liberal arts college, and I am a firm believer in taking classes outside your major. It's good to be exposed to a variety of things. Besides, you never know when a "pointless" class will change your life. I took math appreciation to settle a graduation requirement and it blew my mind. Four years later, I'm heading for math grad school.
  15. May 30, 2012 #14


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    My honors adviser steered me into elective courses that actually became the basis for my double-major after I left engineering. Sometimes those "electives" can be quite attractive.
  16. May 31, 2012 #15
    Thanks for all the responses so far, it's refreshing to hear from others who can connect, and it's helpful to receive advice and new ways of looking at it.

    Yes, I think that's what I'm going to be doing. I just have this mentality that college is supposed to be about being trained in a discipline. I want to be a competent electrical engineer. If I'm curious about deaf culture, I'll go read a book about deaf culture in spare time, because it's irrelevant to my training. Unfortunately, that's not how college turned out to be.

    I didn't mean to bash jogging and the like for all of you who enjoy it. Personally, I hate those other courses, but I must do well in them so I can stay in college and become an engineer happily ever after.
  17. May 31, 2012 #16


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    :confused:I'm sorry but I find it hard to believe that there are college/university courses in jogging. At my alma mater, engineering students are required to take what are known as "complementary studies electives" (i.e. courses in the humanities and social sciences), including at least one course in "impact of technology on society" (these would include courses in science history, philosophy of science, and certain sociology or anthropology classes).

    Similarly, those in the sciences are required to take at least 2 or 3 courses in the humanities or social sciences to provide "balance".
  18. May 31, 2012 #17
    Believe it or not, there are jogging classes. My community college (and therefore the state school most students transfer to) requires a term or two of health and fitness classes. :grumpy:
  19. May 31, 2012 #18


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    I wonder if health and fitness class requirements are common across American colleges/universities, because in Canada they most certainly are not (by your reference to state schools, I assume you are a student in the US).
  20. May 31, 2012 #19
    I'm entirely against the idea of having too specific a syllabus. Especially in a humanities course. To compensate for the open-ended nature of the course, there should be a larger variety of questions on the finals and the grading criteria should then, not be overly specific.

    Also, I was looking at course descriptions on OCW and I noticed that at MIT, intro literature is just using literary works to learn how to write clearly. The focus is on clarity of expression, rather than quality of arguments. (paraphrasing the description on the website here) Cool thing, imo. I wonder how other colleges deal with the "writing requirement" and whether there are alternative courses for that. I get the impression that lots of places seem to not take distribution requirements too seriously, which results in students not caring much about them either!
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