The Quality of a Core Curriculum

One of the biggest choices students make, after they make the big decision of which college to attend, is what major to choose. The task of choosing a major often seems like it will decide the course of your life after graduation. Coming into college, many of us struggle to know what we like and whether it is something important and enjoyable enough to follow on our future paths. Some may struggle to choose between their competing passions. Others may battle between their parents’ wishes and their own desires. No matter what the circumstance, deciding on a major is a daunting task for every student.

It is estimated that between 20 and 50 percent of college students enter their freshman year as “undecided.” In addition, between 50 and 75 percent of college students will change their major at least once during their time at their university. These statistics prove how challenging it is both to decide on a major and to commit to one. Many students are apprehensive about going in as undecided—there is undoubtedly a stigma behind doing so. Students fear being judged as not having a plan for their lives yet, especially amongst a community full of driven, career-focused peers.

Personally, I never experienced much anxiety about my major. Growing up, I was always fantasizing about what my future could hold—I dreamt of everything that I considered even slightly feasible for myself. For a while, I saw myself holding a career in science. I was always fascinated by nature and the world around me, and I thought it would be amazing to spend my future learning about the mechanisms behind all of that. But as I navigated through the multitude of required high school courses, I realized that my heart was not truly in the science field. As I neared the senior year and had begun focusing on college, I started to embrace my passion for reading and writing: I had always loved books and wanted to continue to immerse myself in words and stories. So, I enrolled at Boston College as an English major.

In my first semester, I mainly took classes required for the core. Because of this, I found myself in a class I was unexpectedly interesting in: introductory psychology. I find that there are many connections between the fields of English and psychology. Literature is all about exploring different experiences. The insights psychology can provide undoubtedly explain how literature can be universal. It allows us to understand why people act the way they do, and literature takes these insights to new heights.

BC’s core curriculum encourages us to engage in other disciplines. Many students fall into the belief that they need to pick one field and never stray. This often comes from the idea that their major will determine their futures by determining their occupation. A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2013 found that only around 27 percent of college graduates work in jobs that are not strictly related to the field in which they majored. These statistics demonstrate the complexity of the job market that college graduates will enter into. It is never easy to find your dream job—especially not right away. By working to develop an open mind as a student, you will have a better time handling the challenges of the job market. With knowledge in other fields, you can apply those skills to jobs that may combine your own field of study with aspects of others.

Some argue that a core curriculum inhibits students from taking classes that they really want: By having many required classes, it may become more difficult to take classes that interest you.  I would again argue, however, that having an open curriculum would be a disadvantage to students. Without an incentive to do so, students would seldom venture outside of the comfort zone of their chosen field of study. Even though you may have less of a choice, the core curriculum does not inhibit students from taking classes that they are interested in or double majoring. At BC in particular, I have found that there are a variety of courses that fulfill each of the core’s requirements. Many of these courses also fulfill requirements for certain majors. Thus, the core is not as difficult as some may argue it is to fulfill.

Now, as I find myself leaning towards a double major in English and Psychology, my experience has proved to me that just one class can spark an interest in a field you may have never previously thought see underneath quote. It is for this reason that I believe the stigma around undecided students needs to be lifted. Without a strictly set path for ourselves, we open our minds to the opportunity to discover passions we have never dreamt of. Even if you have a declared major, I think it is important to maintain an open mind and learn about things outside of your chosen field. Doing so will further your own intellectual development, and allow you to gain a deeper understanding of other subjects and how your own field relates to them. After all, the unexpected things in life are often the most meaningful.

Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor