The answer is yes. Yes, you will have to take math. It’s a fairly unavoidable fact of college life.
The first couple of semesters you spend at college are probably going to be spent mostly in general education classes. I know I’ve stressed how important choosing your major is, but there is also another little-known fact about college that many don’t realize: your gen eds are actually really important.
Most of my classmates complain about having to take such a rigorous gen ed course load. LMU is a liberal arts university, so of course there is going to be an emphasis on general education! I don’t enjoy taking math or biology any more than most of my other humanities majors, but in my time at LMU I have realized how important gen eds actually are.
My first semester at LMU, greatly to my dismay, I had to take College Algebra II (Math 112, for those of you who know your catalog). Ever since I was young, I’ve hated math to the point of nearly declaring it the greatest horror on the face of the planet. Come to find out, my professor was an infinitely intelligent man. He assigned a lot of homework and practically never stopped to take a breath during his lectures. I went back to my dorm every day after class with hand-cramps and a headache. His tests were brutal, but thanks to his relentless lecturing and making sure the entire class understood before he moved on to the next chapter, I never felt unprepared for them. Nevertheless, I was still no mathematician. It was the first class in my entire life that I had not gotten an A in. But, I also realized that….that was okay. I tried. I did my homework, I went to class, I got tutored, I studied. For the first time in my life, I was really proud of a grade that wasn’t an A. I was proud that the class had challenged me and shook me out of my comfort zone. The class also really made me appreciate people who are good at math. Kudos to you, math and science majors; I have the utmost respect for you!
My second semester, I enrolled in Physics 100, because Chemistry 100 was full (which can happen if you forget to register for your classes early!). The entirety of Christmas break was spent fretting over physics. I had never taken a physics class in my life, and I never thought I would have to. I went to class the first day back, walked into the room, and realized I didn’t know a soul in there. At least in my math class, I had known a few people, but this room was full of strangers. To top it off, the only seat left was in the front of the class. After a few minutes, the professor walked in and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Okay, how many of you are actually science majors?” Only a couple of Vet Tech majors raised their hands. The rest of us were an array of majors spanning from Psychology to Broadcasting Communications, from Criminal Justice to History. My professor’s response was not what I expected. He actually seemed excited that most of us were non-science majors. I guess he saw us as a clean slate, just waiting to impart his love of physics on to us. He told us up front that he wouldn’t torture us with too much math and that he was going to make the class as painless as possible. And it actually was. Over the course of the semester, I actually found myself enjoying reading my homework and looked forward to going to class and to lab. We played with inertia, and light, and mass, and all that other cool physics-y stuff that I would never have encountered if I hadn’t taken the class. Most of all, since it was considered Conceptual Physics, the class actually helped improve my critical thinking skills. Most of our tests were in essay form and demanded an understanding of pretty abstract concepts that had been new to me at the beginning of the semester. I also got the chance to make some new friends, especially in lab, which was really fun, by the way. But, really, what college student doesn’t want to spend her afternoons crashing Hotwheels cars to better understand acceleration?
Some of my favorite stories and memories about my college experience have taken place in my gen ed classes (i.e. passing out in Bio lab when we did blood-typing and getting rave reviews in my Speech class for my presentation over the benefits of flossing). They gave me a chance to meet people outside my major and get different viewpoints on a lot of different things. Many of my gen ed classmates are actually still some of my good friends.
So, all in all, coming from a college senior, your gen eds are super important! Take them seriously, and you’ll get out what you put in. If you have any other comments or stories about the gen ed experience, feel free to tweet me, email me, or follow this blog for more stories, tips, and advice!