College: the place to immerse yourself in Plato’s philosophy, to pursue groundbreaking research in astrophysics, and to explore your interest in…ratatouille? For many college students, “electives” are a thing of the past. They are for carefree high school students who aren’t pursuing a degree, they are useless. However one of the beauties (among quite a few negative things) of the American college system is the flexibility and ability to explore most of your interests – even French cooking. Exploring more traditionally non-academic subjects can be just as valuable and enriching, universities have them for a reason. Here are a few classes that may be traditionally thought of as “electives” and their positive impacts on your college experience.


Not actual french cooking – Spanish Paella!

French Cooking (Cuisine)

Cooking is a life skill and no instant ramen is not a sustainable lifestyle. Knowing  how to cook allows you to turn simple ingredients into simple and healthier meals.  Classes like French Cooking or Baking also give students the chance to make new  foods. Of course the best part is not having to worry about your next meal when  you consume your creation. What’s great is once again having that guidance from  an instructor instead of blindly following a recipe. Cooking classes are what you  make of them, whether for practical application, for fun, or because you love the  Food Network. Unfortunately your friends and dorm mates might not let you leave  the kitchen from now on…

Water Polo (Sports)

Many university campuses contain numerous sophisticated sports facilities – so why not take advantage of them? But, isn’t that what free time is for? However, there are extra benefits to being part of a structured class. Getting that “Pass” or “Satisfactory” in the class may be motivation to do sports regularly for students who struggle with the monotony of running or attending a gym. Moreover, there is an instructor to offer guidance for students who might feel that they are not athletic or that they don’t know what they are doing. The class can also provide a more concrete measure of improvement which adds to the motivation. Or maybe, taking a sports class can be a way to just learn about a new sport and how to practice it safely. So whether it’s rock climbing or yoga, go for it!


Taken at Wellesley College

Painting (Art)

In college, most students see art classes not as electives but as classes exclusively for art majors or minors. However, that is not always the case. Introductory classes welcome anyone who possesses a genuine interest in creating art and expressing themselves. Art doesn’t have to be your career for you to be able to explore it during college. University art classes are also varied due to the range of facilities and art mediums available to students. From photography to sculpture, art doesn’t have to be restrained to traditional drawing and painting. Art classes are also a great entry point into a campus’ art scene. Instructors and peers often have connections with galleries and clubs that students can join in the future to continue an art hobby.

Social Dance (Misc.)

There are some “electives” that defy categorization. These quirky outliers are still worth student’s love. Many explore contemporary pop culture phenomena like fanfiction or Harry Potter or comic books. Others aim to teach a special skill like social dance or fly fishing. These classes are a great way to unwind and have a lighter semester or quarter. They also provide a context to get to know fun professors and socialize with students that share your interests.

As a society, sometimes we focus too much on efficiency and productivity. Slow down if you can and take some electives. Not only are they healthy as means of de-stressing, but they also provide the tools for physical and mental health in college (tennis, meditation, counseling, etc). These classes are a great way to either continue an old hobby or explore new interests under the guidance of a staff member and the encouragement of your peers. Only in college will the circumstances, funding, and facilities will be right for the pursuit of interests like underwater basket weaving.

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the author

Andrea Villa is a freshman at Stanford University, hoping to major in Comparative Literature or Art History, if her rogue interest in Astronomy doesn’t get in the way. Born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Miami, Andrea’s upbringing has consisted of multicultural blend of Latin American influences. A strong believer in the power of hard work and merit, she maintains that financial difficulties do not have to be obstacles to success. As a Gates and Questbridge scholar, Andrea aims to spread awareness about these and other programs that lend a helping hand to low income students. Her life goals include publishing a novel and travelling everywhere. She is an avid reader of fiction, fantasy, historical nonfiction, and anything else that seems interesting. Andrea loves languages; she is fluent in English and Spanish and has studied French, German, and Japanese in the past. When not working or reading or studying, Andrea can be found restlessly looking for something to do.

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