Non-Science Majors Should Take Science Classes as Electives

>Jacob Robertson

As I enter my senior year as a physics major, confirming my Spring schedule comes with a sense of relief. My semesters are finally full with science classes in my field of study, undiluted with the core requirements of subjects I have little interest in. I expect that non-science majors feel similarly in regards to those 6 torturous hours of science core. Students often solicit advice from upperclassmen to determine which class is the easiest, which professor is the most lenient, and how they can put forth the least effort possible.

Truthfully, I can’t blame these students. Even most science majors will agree that high school science is taught poorly. Students have bad first impressions of science, and I share this experience as well. In fact, I was completely uninterested in science before college. After taking a conceptual physics class to satisfy the core science requirement, I became obsessed and changed my major from Communications to Physics the same semester. My previous understanding of science was wrong, and, for whatever reason, I never received this knowledge in high-school science classes.

Science is an effort to understand the natural world using observable evidence as the basis for understanding. Science is not memorizing parts of a cell or the order of the planets, but a process of discovery. Contrary to your impressions from high-school, science is a way of thinking, not rote memorization of facts. I will concede however the requirement to understand and learn terminology. Sorry. Science can be technical and specific, and you will have to expand your vocabulary. A technical vocabulary is one necessary tool to use science as a process of understanding. This process of discovery has allowed us to understand some really cool things. Scientists can explain how stars are born and how they die, how particles behave on the quantum level, and how life on Earth began and evolved.

In addition, science education provides unique critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that extend beyond any particular discipline. In particular, the problem-solving skills developed by studying physics are great in the job market. Not all physics majors go on to be practicing scientists, but work in finance, education, the military, and in tech and computer science jobs. The fact that these students are prime candidates in these fields is a testament to the transferable skills of studying a hard science. Furthermore, physics majors do well on the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) and the LSAT (Law School Admission Test).

I encourage non-science majors to approach their core science classes with an open mind. Don’t just copy the slide notes, but listen and comprehend the lectures. Participate and stay engaged in the labs, and take time to write a thorough lab report. Finally, I suggest taking additional science classes as free electives. While knowing the atomic mass of Calcium won’t directly help on a Principles of Finance exam, the experience of “learning to learn” obtained from courses in the hard sciences will benefit one in any discipline.