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Why New College Students Should Take Classes Outside of Their Comfort Zone

Most students tend to excel in one academic area while doing a bit worse in others. Whether your strong suit is art or science, it's a good idea to take classes outside of that comfort zone. Here's why.

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The Benefits of Diversifying Your Coursework

Once your major is selected and your standard required courses are out of the way, you may be tempted to focus all of your energy on classes within your area of interest. It's a reasonable impulse - there are probably a lot of bases you'd like to cover, and you might as well stick to classes that you know are both interesting and in your wheelhouse. But taking a step outside of that comfort zone is a good idea. Not convinced? Consider these reasons.

Avoid Burnout

If you're taking all your classes in the same area, you might get a little tired of it, no matter how well it suits your natural abilities. This can be bad news if your area of burnout is essential to your major. Taking classes in different areas will help you stay fresh in the disciplines that matter most to your education.

Expand Your Horizons

You may think you hate everything that's outside of your area of expertise, but you're probably wrong about that. A little exploration is likely to turn up some interesting subject areas that you've never considered studying before. Who knows - maybe you're a healthcare administration major with a newly discovered fascination for non-Euclidean geometry.

Meet New People

If you take all your classes in the same couple of departments, you might get used to a similar cast of characters. Taking classes in different disciplines will introduce you to students and faculty who you might not have met otherwise. You might walk away with some interesting new friends.

Get a Fresh Perspective

Working on something outside your area of expertise might be challenging, but it can also help you see the work you prefer to do in a new light. This new perspective might help you get an even better grasp on topics you previously thought you'd mastered.

Prepare for Reality

The great thing about college is that you can tailor your world to exclude things you'd rather not think about. Unfortunately, the chances of you being able to do something similar after graduation are basically nil. Even if you land your dream job, it's highly likely that you won't enjoy all of your job duties. For example, maybe you want to be an engineer, and you daydream about spending your workdays focused on designing and testing computer chips. In reality, you'll likely interact with co-workers, clients and supply vendors on a frequent basis, and you may need to rely on your communication and negotiation skills as well as your math and science skills. Taking a communications or public speaking course while in college could pay off in your career.

Fulfill Requirements

Even if you've already fulfilled your school's general requirements, your major probably has its own set of requirements that you'll have to tick off before getting the go-ahead for graduation. Some of those requirements are likely to be in areas that are less-than-appealing. If none of the previous reasons to step outside of your comfort zone seemed good enough for you, this one might be the most convincing of all.

Boost Your GPA

Some introductory classes are textbook-based. If you are fairly intelligent and a strong reader, these courses can be a breeze for you, and acing a class will help increase your grade point average. A higher GPA reflects well on you, and it could also improve your chances of getting into graduate programs or qualify you for additional financial aid opportunities.

Learn New Skills

You can't graduate on easy classes alone, and the information and new experiences you acquire in moderately difficult classes can help you land a job after school. For instance, if you take a tough but enriching elective course, you can bring it up as a conversation piece during an interview, and it will show diversity on your transcript to a potential employer. Willingness to take on and succeed at challenges outside of your comfort zone is an attribute that future employers will value.

If you're taking classes that are technical or math-intensive, you might want to look into courses that will help you with your writing skills.

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