Friday, March 17, 2017
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I am an early admit to the University of Chicago, and I want to make sure that I sign up for classes as a freshmen and sophomore that will provide a good background for me, no matter what my course of study is.
Since I have not chosen a major, what classes would you suggest that I take that will provide me with the most benefits?
Signed, Undecided Major
Dear Undecided Major,
You are wise to start thinking about your academic direction before signing up for classes in the fall. Course selection is serious business, and a decision should not be left until you arrive on campus.
Unlike high school, college offers a bewildering array of classes from which to choose, and the course catalog reads like an encyclopedia of world knowledge. Each class sounds exciting and interesting, and it is always tempting to dip into the cookie jar without thinking.
Although college is not all about preparing for a career, you cannot ignore the fact that at the end of four years, you will need to have learned something of substance and certain basic skills that will enhance your marketability, regardless of the field in which you work. I have compiled a list of four classes that I believe are must-haves on your college transcript.
The first is an introduction to economics. Wall Street, government, international relations, immigration and poverty in developing nations all affect us as never before. We live in an ever-increasing state of global interconnectivity, and a basic understanding of this relationship can be found in the study of economics.
The second is a course in basic statistics. At Harvard, Introduction to Basic Statistics is one of the most popular courses on campus alongside economics and computer science. This is, in part, because statistics is a basic tool used in studying economics. When asked about the popularity of the class, the professor said the increasing use of statistics in the private sector drives the enrollment. A statistics course will stand out on your transcripts and give you a marked advantage when interviewing with a potential employer. Both of you will speak the same language. Many job interviews require a candidate to use a white board to show competency in statistics when solving a case study.
My third suggestion is an introductory course in computer science. We can no longer pretend to be educated people without a basic understanding of computers. Computers will continue playing important roles in every aspect of intellectual life, regardless of one's vocation.
Finally, I recommend a course in sociology. In a sense, sociology ties everything else together — much like economics, but with a flair for the historical and slightly less rigorous analytics. Academicians still debate whether Karl Marx was a sociologist or an economist. And, although Marx might be less relevant today after the fall of the Soviet Union, one cannot deny his analysis of the French Revolution, which still stands as an important contribution to political and economic history. And, lest we forget, China reveres Marx second only to Mao in its political pantheon. These classes may prove challenging and are not meant to be taken for an easy A.
If there is such a thing as power in knowledge, I can think of no more important courses to take than the four mentioned here.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admission consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
Colleges and Universities, College Consulting, International Students
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