# Question On The Structure Of College Education

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### #1 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 21 May 2016 - 09:52 PM

First off, let me say I'm not entirely sure if this is where this question should be asked, so if it isn't, I would appreciate it being moved to the correct location

Now this is something that I thought about quite a bit while taking classes in college, and something I still continue to consider now that I am unable to attend ($problems ;). For the most part, at least from what I remember, the first two years or so of college cover a broad range of "core classes", or required curriculum needed to advance in your education. I have been told by my brother, whom graduated from college, that this is necessary in order to not only refresh your memory of the subjects (if it has been some time between graduating high school and entering college), but also to serve as a way to decide which subject you wish to pursue further down the line. I disagreed, saying that although the classes in elementary through high school were watered-down and primarily for teaching and building upon basics, they still give a good idea of what kind of subjects you may wish to pursue. With that being said, my question is this: What is the actual purpose for structuring core classes this way, and wouldn't it make more sense to cut the classes that have nothing to do with your major or minor in favor of just focusing on what you *need*? ### #2 Farming guy Farming guy Explaining • Members • 957 posts Posted 22 May 2016 - 11:09 AM With that being said, my question is this: What is the actual purpose for structuring core classes this way, and wouldn't it make more sense to cut the classes that have nothing to do with your major or minor in favor of just focusing on what you *need*? With that being said, I would say it would be better to be an apprentice than a college student. If all you want are employable skills , and you know specifically what skills you want and need, why spend time and money on anything else? ### #3 CaelesMessorem CaelesMessorem Advanced Member • Members • 87 posts Posted 22 May 2016 - 12:37 PM I actually agree with that idea, but since you need a degree to be considered for any higher-paying job (with my experience, having knowledge and know-how doesn't necessarily make you a viable option for hire like a very expensive piece of paper i.e. a degree, and now even that doesn't guarantee anything), I just wondered why we have a broad core curriculum to begin with? Not only that, but specialized/ vocational schools are more expensive because they have shorter enrollment times (2-3 years to graduate as opposed to 4+), which doesn't make sense being that they removed the excess classes. ### #4 CraigD CraigD Creating • Administrators • 8034 posts Posted 23 May 2016 - 03:41 PM For the most part, at least from what I remember, the first two years or so of college cover a broad range of "core classes", or required curriculum needed to advance in your education. Though the practice may be different now, when I was in college as an undergrad, I was able to skip many of the classes I was advised to take in my first 2 years by speaking to my advisor and various department staff, who allowed me to just take exams from the classes, and if I got a high enough score, take the exam for the class for which it was a prerequisite, repeating until I reached an exam I on which I couldn’t do well. I wasn’t given credit for these “place out of” classes, just allowed to use them to satisfy the prerequisites for more challenging classes. When I was ready to graduate, I had too few total credit hours (most undergraduate degrees require about 120 total semester hours), but was allowed to take CLEP exams for classes I either hadn’t had any engagement, or ones I placed out of. This allowed me to spend a few hundred dollars where otherwise I would have had to spend more on tuition, books, living expenses, lost wages for work I wouldn’t have had time to do, and worse, been bored silly and likely gotten into various sorts of trouble. Schools and departments vary in how many hours you can CLEP, and how well you must do on the test to get credit, but I you’re able to do well on them, they can save you a lot of time and money. I have been told by my brother, whom graduated from college, that this is necessary in order to not only refresh your memory of the subjects (if it has been some time between graduating high school and entering college), but also to serve as a way to decide which subject you wish to pursue further down the line. I disagreed, saying that although the classes in elementary through high school were watered-down and primarily for teaching and building upon basics, they still give a good idea of what kind of subjects you may wish to pursue. I have a 3rd take on the purpose of core classes. My experience, and that of many people I met in college, is that actually taking classes toward a specific degree and specialization served in large part to teach us that we didn’t want to go into a given academic or professional field. A lot of this was learned socially, getting to know young faculty who were doing what I planned, especially young ones who regretted of had mixed feeling about their choices, I think saved me from what would have been some brief and unhappy careers in things I though I wanted to do. I arrived at the degree I eventually finished – a BS in Math – largely through a process of elimination. With that being said, my question is this: What is the actual purpose for structuring core classes this way, and wouldn't it make more sense to cut the classes that have nothing to do with your major or minor in favor of just focusing on what you *need*? I think the usual – and correct – answer is to give you more broad knowledge and experience than you’d get from only specialized studies. Some of this more broad experience can prove unexpectedly valuable in later professional or academic life, which often involve unexpected challenges and disciplines. Perhaps more importantly, it can give you a richer personal life – knowing a little about a lot of subjects can be fun, and liberating. Another reason schools require their graduates to be “well rounded” is there are more purposes to schools than to provide training that directly benefits the individual – the school also wants its graduates to enhance its reputation and prestige. There’s not much difference, technically, between a 100-level class at an expensive, prestigious school, and on at an inexpensive, obscure one, but there is a difference between the value of the degree from either. If a school graduates too many people who aren’t very good at impressing people with how smart they are, the school’s prestige diminishes. I recall some stories of graduates who pursued lawsuits against their schools for “diluting” the value of their degrees by having granting degrees to too many unimpressive people. This can even be an issue for low-prestige schools – if too many of their graduates are blatantly ill-educated, they can even lose not only reputation but accreditation, and the prospect of even their best graduates. ### #5 Racoon Racoon Politically Incorrect • Members • 3800 posts Posted 24 May 2016 - 12:01 AM Don't take out$50,000 for a worthless womans studies or cultural anthropology degree.

If your goal is to make money, then follow a study of plumbing, electrition, auto mechanic

Edited by Racoon, 24 May 2016 - 12:12 AM.

### #6 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 24 May 2016 - 10:29 AM

Though the practice may be different now, when I was in college as an undergrad, I was able to skip many of the classes I was advised to take in my first 2 years by speaking to my advisor and various department staff, who allowed me to just take exams from the classes, and if I got a high enough score, take the exam for the class for which it was a prerequisite, repeating until I reached an exam I on which I couldn’t do well. I wasn’t given credit for these “place out of” classes, just allowed to use them to satisfy the prerequisites for more challenging classes.

When I was ready to graduate, I had too few total credit hours (most undergraduate degrees require about 120 total semester hours), but was allowed to take CLEP exams for classes I either hadn’t had any engagement, or ones I placed out of. This allowed me to spend a few hundred dollars where otherwise I would have had to spend more on tuition, books, living expenses, lost wages for work I wouldn’t have had time to do, and worse, been bored silly and likely gotten into various sorts of trouble.

Schools and departments vary in how many hours you can CLEP, and how well you must do on the test to get credit, but I you’re able to do well on them, they can save you a lot of time and money.

You are correct that they still have CLEP exams to bypass courses and earn credit by demonstrating sufficient knowledge in the subject.

But another reason I had a problem with core classes is that on the off chance someone was weak in a subject(s) all throughout early schooling (k-12), they are being forced to take it/ them again with even greater repercussions for not doing well. I agree it's important to be well-rounded as a student and individual, but I don't see why someone that excels in, say writing or languages, should be unable to pursue their education in those subjects simply because they have trouble finding X for an arbitrary word problem.

I have a 3rd take on the purpose of core classes.

My experience, and that of many people I met in college, is that actually taking classes toward a specific degree and specialization served in large part to teach us that we didn’t want to go into a given academic or professional field. A lot of this was learned socially, getting to know young faculty who were doing what I planned, especially young ones who regretted of had mixed feeling about their choices, I think saved me from what would have been some brief and unhappy careers in things I though I wanted to do. I arrived at the degree I eventually finished – a BS in Math – largely through a process of elimination.

This, I can relate to. I entered college initially thinking I was going to pursue an art degree. When that didn't pan out, I switched to com. sci. That REALLY didn't work out, so I found myself in business management and entrepreneurship, and was discovering myself to be rather adept in them. However, is there not a more efficient way for students to figure out what they aren't cut out for without dishing out hundreds of dollars and hours for classes? Putting ones' self in debt just to find that it wasn't for them seems a little...unfavorable.

I think the usual – and correct – answer is to give you more broad knowledge and experience than you’d get from only specialized studies. Some of this more broad experience can prove unexpectedly valuable in later professional or academic life, which often involve unexpected challenges and disciplines. Perhaps more importantly, it can give you a richer personal life – knowing a little about a lot of subjects can be fun, and liberating.

Another reason schools require their graduates to be “well rounded” is there are more purposes to schools than to provide training that directly benefits the individual – the school also wants its graduates to enhance its reputation and prestige. There’s not much difference, technically, between a 100-level class at an expensive, prestigious school, and on at an inexpensive, obscure one, but there is a difference between the value of the degree from either. If a school graduates too many people who aren’t very good at impressing people with how smart they are, the school’s prestige diminishes. I recall some stories of graduates who pursued lawsuits against their schools for “diluting” the value of their degrees by having granting degrees to too many unimpressive people. This can even be an issue for low-prestige schools – if too many of their graduates are blatantly ill-educated, they can even lose not only reputation but accreditation, and the prospect of even their best graduates.

This, I'll take your word for. I'm just beginning to come into my mid-twenties, and really haven't had the experience to find the use in what I see as irrelevant knowledge. I can also see how a broader knowledge base would enrich your personal life. I mean, that's part of the reason we are on these forums, no?

I personally don't want to be used to garner prestige for a university. They already use my need for knowledge as leverage to make large amounts of money. Teach me what I need for the subject I need it and let my achievements bring them their credibility.

Don't take out $50,000 for a worthless womans studies or cultural anthropology degree. If your goal is to make money, then follow a study of plumbing, electrition, auto mechanic Agreed. I personally was in Business Management and Entrepreneurship, though I have always had a vested interest in auto mechanic work, specifically on motorcycles. ### #7 Deepwater6 Deepwater6 Explaining • Members • 891 posts Posted 24 May 2016 - 11:23 AM I agree with Racoon whole heartedly. My nephew graduated with honors from Villanova university 2yrs ago with an English major. He has tried to find work since and finally decided to go back and get his master's degree in the hopes of getting a teaching job. On the other hand there are plenty of jobs that pay very well without a full degree. As Racoon stated some skilled trades can be very lucrative. I'm employed with a large water company. The only requirement for entry level positions is that you must have or get a state water license within 3yrs. To get these licenses you must sit for the state tests held at various locations. Anyone can sit for the test and the manpower need projected in this industry is enormous. This is due to tighter regulations, and growth, but it is also linked to the generation around my age that will be retiring in the next 10yrs or so. Events in Flint recently, will surely ripple across the industry with people demanding a closer look at what comes out of their tap. Hourly wages vary for the industry depending on your location, but entry level jobs here in the northeast usually run from$20.00 to $26.00 an hour. The AWWA website has national list of jobs and career opportunities for all over the country. It also gives resources to study for the state test. I have friends who work as electricians for the IBEW out of Philadelphia and they make well over$100,000yr. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking a college education, I just believe there are back doors to make a good living without a degree if you know where to look.

Work in many of the above fields can offer, health insurance, pension or enhanced 401K match, accumulative vacation time, and some pay for college schooling at night so long as you are going for a degree in the same field.

Look around you at your friends, relatives, etc. and see what others do that appeals to you. If you go the college route just be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. There is this misconception I see all the time, recent college grads expecting to roll right out of school and right into a VP job because they have a degree. Unless your rich uncle owns the company working your way up is usually the only way to achieve that kind of status. Just keep in mind that there are many avenues to success. Good Luck

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### #8 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 24 May 2016 - 04:23 PM

I agree with Racoon whole heartedly. My nephew graduated with honors from Villanova university 2yrs ago with an English major. He has tried to find work since and finally decided to go back and get his master's degree in the hopes of getting a teaching job.

On the other hand there are plenty of jobs that pay very well without a full degree. As Racoon stated some skilled trades can be very lucrative. I'm employed with a large water company. The only requirement for entry level positions is that you must have or get a state water license within 3yrs.

To get these licenses you must sit for the state tests held at various locations. Anyone can sit for the test and the manpower need projected in this industry is enormous.  This is due to tighter regulations, and growth, but it is also linked to the generation around my age that will be retiring in the next 10yrs or so. Events in Flint recently, will surely ripple across the industry with  people demanding a closer look at what comes out of their tap.

Hourly wages vary for the industry depending on your location, but entry level jobs here in the northeast usually run from $20.00 to$26.00 an hour. The AWWA website has national list of jobs and career opportunities for all over the country. It also gives resources to study for the state test.

I have friends who work as electricians for the IBEW out of Philadelphia and they make well over \$100,000yr. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking a college education, I just believe there are back doors to make a good living without a degree if you know where to look.

Work in many of the above fields can offer, health insurance, pension or enhanced 401K match, accumulative vacation time, and some pay for college schooling at night so long as you are going for a degree in the same field.

Look around you at your friends, relatives, etc. and see what others do that appeals to you. If you go the college route just be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. There is this misconception I see all the time, recent college grads expecting to roll right out of school and right into a VP job because they have a degree. Unless your rich uncle owns the company working your way up is usually the only way to achieve that kind of status. Just keep in mind that there are many avenues to success. Good Luck

I appreciate that insight as it's something I'm dealing with right now.

My question for you would be: do professions have the same requirement of "little to great experience" in order to engage in that field of work? There's an infinite loop that I've been noticing in my job hunting lately, in which these jobs require you to be knowledgeable in one or many areas to be hired, but the places that you would get that experience also require you to have experience. There never seems to be a way to circumvent these prerequisites to be considered for hire. For example, I am currently trying to apply at REI because I want to spend my life traveling to state and national parks and preserves, and REI not only deals with the equipment and clothing, but actually gives you time off to make these excursions. However, I'm not a hiking or outdoor expert, and it ended up costing me a potential position. So this time, rather than researching hiking, outdoors, watersports, etc, I'm researching REI products to become familiar with the company rather than the activities that they advocate. Do you think this is a good idea, and what would you suggest for attempts at getting hired at places with similar restrictions?

### #9 Deepwater6

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Posted 25 May 2016 - 08:29 AM

Yes I agree, it can be hard to get the experience you need when no one will hire you without experience. I think finding out as much as you can about the company is a great idea. Sometimes it's better to seek a job indirectly. What I mean is, most of the people in my field get hired from the DEP because the state doesn't pay much. They are also familiar with our practices due to their inspections of the plants and wells. They are already coming to the position with a good amount regulation knowledge.

If you really want in at REI and don't have a contact that can speak on your behalf, there are other ways to make yourself known. You might want to think about taking a job with some of the vendors who sell equipment to REI. This will give you two things, you will gain knowledge of the products they sell and give you exposure to management as you sell/deliver equipment to them.

Anything you can do to make yourself more marketable to management would be a plus. if you're interested in a sales job look at one or two day courses on how to be a better sales person (usually held at your local hotels). They give you a certificate at the end of the course and it's something you can add to your application to make yourself stand apart from others.

A couple of other things to remember for the interview. Go well dressed and look the interviewer in the eye. A good firm handshake sends the message that you are confident and really interested in getting the position.

Edited by Deepwater6, 25 May 2016 - 05:58 PM.

### #10 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 25 May 2016 - 01:54 PM

Yes I agree, it can be hard to get the experience you need when no one will hire you without experience. I think finding out as much as you can about the company is a great idea. Sometimes it's better to seek a job indirectly. What I mean is, most of the people in my field get hired from the DEP because the state doesn't pay much. They are also familiar with our practices due to there inspections of the plants and wells. They are already coming to the position with a good amount regulation knowledge.

If you really want in at REI and don't have a contact that can speak on your behalf, there other ways to make yourself known. You might want to think about taking a job with some of the vendors who sell equipment to REI. This will give you two things, you will gain knowledge of the products they sell and give you exposure to management as you sell/deliver equipment to them.

Anything you can do to make yourself more marketable to management would be a plus. if you're interested in a sales job look at one or two day courses on how to be a better sales person (usually held at your local hotels). They give you a certificate at the end of the course and it's something you can add to your application to make yourself stand apart from others.

A couple of other things to remember for the interview. Go well dressed and look the interviewer in the eye. A good firm handshake sends the message that you are confident and really interested in getting the position.

I will definitely keep all your suggestions in mind, and I appreciate the advice. I'm half way through identifying and differentiating between their product base, and I think even as I am now I have a better chance than I did a month ago. I'll keep at it in the mean time and hope the knowledge and effort appeals to them the next round of hiring.

### #11 sanctus

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 02:56 AM

So it seems I am gonna be the only one defending the core classes :-).I studied made a Bachelor's in physics, master in theoretical physics and went on to a PhD in Cosmology so I have been in these area for a long time.
During the courses for the Bachelor, we had all this basic mathematics courses like Analysis, Algebra, etc. which in year 1 was all about stuff already done before (i.e. definition of integrals, limits, etc.), then in year 2 (or second semester of year 1) it got further than before. The reason I think this is needed is that everyone almost comes from a different school to University so all have different pre-acquired knowledge. With repeating stuff for some the University makes sure everyone stands on the same footing and then one can't say "I never learned this".
Also, these core-courses are not completely unrelated to your field of study (physics, algebra and analysis go hand in hand), it is not that if you study English the a core course you have to take is Algebra.

It is true that, even if you go on to theoretical physics, proof of theorems is not something you need all the time, but theorems you do--> and having a basic understanding instead of a black box is much better (it might even give you an idea for another problem to solve you wouldn't have had otherwise).

Another example which a lot of social-sciences students was that they have to take a statistics course, but that also makes perfect sense; in that field you end up very often to present average values and standard deviations, if you have only a black box knowledge you will do this on 100 data-points and believe the standard deviation to be reliable (it is NOT at all)

### #12 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 01:49 PM

So it seems I am gonna be the only one defending the core classes :-).I studied made a Bachelor's in physics, master in theoretical physics and went on to a PhD in Cosmology so I have been in these area for a long time.
During the courses for the Bachelor, we had all this basic mathematics courses like Analysis, Algebra, etc. which in year 1 was all about stuff already done before (i.e. definition of integrals, limits, etc.), then in year 2 (or second semester of year 1) it got further than before. The reason I think this is needed is that everyone almost comes from a different school to University so all have different pre-acquired knowledge. With repeating stuff for some the University makes sure everyone stands on the same footing and then one can't say "I never learned this".
Also, these core-courses are not completely unrelated to your field of study (physics, algebra and analysis go hand in hand), it is not that if you study English the a core course you have to take is Algebra.

It is true that, even if you go on to theoretical physics, proof of theorems is not something you need all the time, but theorems you do--> and having a basic understanding instead of a black box is much better (it might even give you an idea for another problem to solve you wouldn't have had otherwise).

Another example which a lot of social-sciences students was that they have to take a statistics course, but that also makes perfect sense; in that field you end up very often to present average values and standard deviations, if you have only a black box knowledge you will do this on 100 data-points and believe the standard deviation to be reliable (it is NOT at all)

Heh It's not so much me being against them as it is me not understanding their use or relevance in regards to your long-term goal, although you definitely gave me a better idea with the examples you provided, which I thank you for. Would it be accurate to sum up what you said as filling gaps in a subject(s) you didn't even know needed to be filled?

### #13 sanctus

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Posted 30 May 2016 - 12:47 AM

Yeah, you can sum it up like that. An additional  thing I just thought about, the education wants to be general unitl the Bachelor's and general in the selected field afterwards. It might indeed be true that say 25% of stuff you are forced to learn is not something you are ever gonna need, but these 25% are different stuff for every student hence everyone has to take all in order that the education keeps giving a general education.

### #14 CaelesMessorem

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 06:58 PM

Yeah, you can sum it up like that. An additional  thing I just thought about, the education wants to be general unitl the Bachelor's and general in the selected field afterwards. It might indeed be true that say 25% of stuff you are forced to learn is not something you are ever gonna need, but these 25% are different stuff for every student hence everyone has to take all in order that the education keeps giving a general education.

That last bit kind of helped me shift perspective on the matter a bit. I think I was too focused on the individual aspect of the curriculum, but obviously there are more than just myself there. A good example of what you said would be how I personally found all the writing and literature core classes to be very informative and useful, whereas my classmates may have been asleep or not even shown up. I still refer to a lot of that knowledge when I write and approach topics, but that may not be the case for my classmates or other students.

I guess this conversation kind of helped me ease off the criticism of the curriculum structure, but part of me wishes that colleges introduced the option of a more personalized core upon enrollment. Think of it like choosing a class in a video-game. If I want to be support, I choose healer of buffer. In a similar manner, they could require you to say what you're looking to study, and require you to take cores tailored for that major or focus. It would still trim off the excess classes while not causing too much of a change to the established system.

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### #15 Deepwater6

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 10:51 AM

Here are some of the best and worst predicted occupations of the future. Now no prediction can be certain of course, but these may be able to lead you into a direction, or maybe help you to decide that you want to take certain college courses in the pursuit of what you want.