Non-major Courses Illustration

With the fall semester nearing its end, students have started preparing for the upcoming spring semester. Many are likely focusing on figuring out which classes to take and creating the perfect schedule.

Traditionally, most students take classes that count toward their degree plan. However, taking classes outside one’s major is beneficial and should be encouraged.

The National College Health Assessment (NCHA) found that more than 40% of college students felt above-average stress levels in a 12-month timespan. NCHA also concluded that stress is one of the top factors for why students may feel too overwhelmed to study or work on their classes, eventually leading to academic burnout.

The American Psychological Association (APA) refers to burnout as “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes toward oneself and others.”

With that said, it can be assumed that most students have dealt with burnout at some point. Improving personal time management can help lessen the stress of academic burnout, but taking classes outside one’s major can also help.

Taking classes that one finds enjoyable or interesting can help break up the routine of only taking major-related courses.

Former Texas State student Amanda Patinio says she took a scuba diving class because she thought it would be fun. She was a nursing major who felt drained by an intense workload and worried about nursing school applications.

“This random scuba class really helped me since it was kind of relaxing not having to worry about nursing and just getting to have fun in the water learning how to scuba dive,” Patinio said.

Along with helping avoid burnout, taking classes outside one’s major can also help students discover newfound interests, as well as diversify their skillsets.

About 20 to 50% of students enter college as “undecided” and about 75% of students end up changing their major at least once before graduation. It is safe to say that interests change over time.

Additionally, some students find that choosing a new major is challenging when they do not know what interests them. By taking classes outside one’s major, new interests could arise. Brodrick Rose, a psychology sophomore, changed his major from biology to pre-med to psychology after taking an introduction to psychology class.

“I went into it not expecting to like it as much as I did," Rose said. "By the end of the class, I realized that I was really interested in the brain and how it works from a psychological standpoint.”

Taking a class outside one’s major does not automatically equate to picking a new major, but it can still be beneficial in the long run. Developing a set of diverse skills can set students up for great opportunities, whether it is a job or getting into graduate or medical school. For example, taking a foreign language in college makes students more valuable in the workplace.

Every class has something to offer; a “Demonology, Possession, and Exorcism” class here at Texas State focuses on teaching students the different beliefs and practices of demons and possession across different cultures. It also teaches students how to apply sociological analysis, as well as interpret and understand different cultural beliefs.

Unfortunately, students have run into some issues while trying to register for classes outside their major.

Dr. Kambra K. Bolch, associate dean of Academic Programs, has answered some of the most common questions and concerns for students who want to register for classes outside their major. Most notably, Bolch advises students to talk with their advisers first before adding classes or making changes to their major.

When asked if there is a way to get non-major classes to count toward a student’s degree plan, Bolch said the student's advising center should explain how to make a request.

“The course may apply to a requirement like open elective hours or writing-intensive hours,” Bolch said.

Another major issue that students have found is that courses outside their degree plan are not always covered by financial aid. Bolch says the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships can help students with questions and concerns regarding such.

“One way for undergraduate students who receive financial aid to take a course that doesn’t apply to their degree is to enroll in 12 hours that count toward their degree and then take the additional course,” Bolch said. “The requirement for courses to count toward a student’s degree is related to federal financial aid, so students at all institutions are affected in the same way.”

In terms of increasing elective hours, Texas State cannot make it easier for students to take courses outside their major, due to federal requirements. However, it would be helpful if advisers encouraged students to take classes that they find interesting or that they feel would be beneficial to their future.

Overall, taking non-major related courses can be very beneficial to students and some professors think so, too.

Dr. Joseph Laycock, assistant professor of Religious Studies, mentioned that he wanted to take a statistics course because his work heavily revolved around interrupting data. Instead, he was told by his adviser to take a foreign language.

He says this is an important issue to discuss, especially because students pay for the education they receive at a higher level.

“I think the more students take an active interest in designing their education, the better,” Laycock said.

- Junior Pacheco is a journalism sophomore

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