The Tuesday Q&A: Taking Electives Outside of My Major

MBA FAQ, MBA frequently asked questions, bschool questions, mba questionsQuestion:

I’m an engineering major and am interested in an art class. Is it a good idea for me to take electives outside of my major area of concentration?

Answer:

Gooood question. There are pros and cons, to be sure. It really depends on your individual situation, so let’s explore…

Future employers do like to see a well-rounded undergraduate education on your transcript. Taking classes outside of your specific major shows that you have a variety of interests and have taken the time to educate yourself outside of one field.

It’s also not a bad idea to balance out your schedule (especially in your first year of college) with intense academic classes, core curriculum courses, and electives that you’re genuinely motivated to take. This will help you maintain your mental and emotional health and not burn out early on.

Also, an art class or other elective in an unrelated major may relate to what you are pursuing. If you can take enough classes in a subject you are passionate about to declare a minor, that’s awesome.

However, whether you should take an art elective depends on your grades. If you are just taking an “easy” elective to bump up your GPA, this is not the best idea. Concentrate on getting your grades in your major up, since these are the ones that matter most to future employers. If you need to work on your GPA, take electives within your major. Seeing improvement within your engineering grades is more impressive than seeing mediocre engineering grades and A’s in painting.

Also, sometimes it’s just not possible to fit an elective into your schedule—maybe your major requirements are extremely tight, or maybe they conflict with the art class. Maybe you’re pursuing a double major. Maybe you are trying to squeeze in studying abroad. Sometimes there just isn’t time to take all the classes you want to take. If that’s the case, you can always join an art club or other related extracurricular activity. Check out our blog post on joining clubs to find out more.

— Jon Frank

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