Electives, seminars and classes

by Louise

The Editor’s share their favorite electives

This topic is right up the Totebag alley. What is the most fun elective you took in school/college ? What are some interesting seminars or classes you attended where you learnt something outside your field ?

I had limited opportunity to take non core classes at school/college but the few classes that I was able to take taught me things which I still remember and I had fun taking them.

What electives have your kids chosen ? Anything interesting?

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122 thoughts on “Electives, seminars and classes

  1. First of all, I have to say I have a REALLY HARD TIME getting past the blatant typo/misuse of apostrophe in the possessive on the page. From college students! Argh!

  2. Apparently “the Editor’s” didn’t take the Intersession class on the care and feeding of apostrophes.

  3. Also – I am at a CLE right now and one of the handouts has a hypo saying “Low and behold”. GAHHHHHHHHHH

  4. OK, actually OT, my favorite elective was art history. I think I took it because my Freshman advisor was one or the art history profs, and I needed classes in that part of the core. Had no clue or background whatsoever, but it was amazing. It was my first real example of how history is so much more than a chronology of kings and dates and such; the art was a gateway into the culture and the values and the ways of thinking of these past societies.

    Not really an “elective,” but I adored my modern poetry class (first intro to Seamus Heaney) and my Jane Austen seminar (largely because it was an excuse to get credit for stuff I did for fun anyway, plus the crotchety old prof actually liked me).

  5. I tried to find a link where students had mentioned their choices, as I wrote this post. This was the only post I could find. I apologize.
    My child’s worst subject this quarter has been grammar. Apparently, they don’t have “correct the sentence” type quizzes, which makes it hard for them to tell right usuage from wrong.

  6. WCE, we couldn’t take music performance electives. Probably a good thing for me bc I would have used them all up that way.

    I can’t remember how many electives I ended up having, but I liked my English class on the literary aspects of the Bible, my history of baseball class, my medieval folklore and mythology class, and my Celtic mythology class. (Several of these also counted for my major). From my TA in that last class I got a great scone recipe. ;)

  7. My favorite electives were:
    – Intro to Classics
    – The History of Jazz, (both) Music 132A and 132B.
    – Spanish-American Literature of the Early 20th Century (100% in Spanish; I was the only non-native speaker

    Students could take 1 elective class per quarter on a P/F/A (>70 = pass; if you earned an A, you got that on the transcript), so I did that. I probably remember more from those classes than any others in undergrad.

    I was not a language major but my entire junior year’s classes were taught in Spanish at a Spanish University and I took 5 quarters of French once I got back to the US. In all, probably 25% or more of my undergrad credits were earned in another language. Perfect for me.

  8. The error in the headline reminded me of my time managing 20-somethings, where I was constantly correcting their writing. What made it more annoying was when they would react as if I were some kind of grammar Nazi, rolling their eyes that I was so demanding.

    I honestly cannot remember elective classes that were particular stand-outs. Maybe that means my college experience was not “life changing”. ;)

  9. L, I was lucky because the organ professor liked to have “a few” non-music major students, she put up a sign in the music building that I saw, and she accepted me.

    I was allowed to take any electives I liked- they just didn’t count toward my graduation requirements. As I recall, I graduated with ~192 semester hours for a major that required 134 semester hours. (I had a com sci minor and would have had a com engr minor if they had been allowed.)

  10. My favorite was Wine Tasting. The Hotel and Restaurant Management department had it if you were over 21. It was so fun, and I still remember some of the things I learned. Due to my spotty attendance record, I don’t remember any others from undergrad. In grad school, my favorite was Management of Technology and Innovation, which discussed the issue of being a non-engineer managing a technology business. It was really interesting. Another was something like the External Environment of Business, where he’d throw you up in front of the class and say something like “you’re an executive at the tuna company catching dolphins in their nets, and class you’re the reporters. Go!” It was a new perspective for me.

  11. I was an English major so most of my fun classes were in my major but I remember liking Sociology of the Family. My favorite class was probably the Fitzgerald and Hemingway one.

  12. WCE, you sound like my husband. He graduated with around 220 hours for a 120 hour degree. My daughter recently received in the mail a letter from the community college congratulating her on her AS in business. Apparently the four year schools feed back to the community college the courses you’ve taken, and with her major and school changes, she ticked all the boxes. She has no idea whether or not to put that on her resume.

  13. I switched majors, so most of my “electives” became the courses from my first major that wouldn’t directly transfer to my second major. I was really ready to be out of school. My most interesting classes not directly related to my course of study – World Geography (counted as science in 2nd major), money and banking (because of the prof), fencing (PE class) and Social Issues class (sociology requirement but 95% of grade was read the article and discuss in class).

  14. This year older child could take electives for the first time. It was exciting looking through the class descriptions. However, scheduling issues meant one elective class that DS wanted was off the table. So, there was a difference between wanting a class and getting it.
    Also, some kids attended the first Intro to Business class, found it hard and switched but my overall take was that DS learned a good bit from it.

  15. “I switched majors, so most of my “electives” became the courses from my first major that wouldn’t directly transfer to my second major.”

    Yup, this happened to me to. I ended up on the 4 1/2 year plan so my last semester I was able to take Wines and a comparative law class taught by a law professor and a rabbi. Both were fascinating.

  16. Perhpas they started with a headline that read “The Editor’s Favorite Electives,” then the other editors wanted in, and they tinkered with the phrasing at the last minute, but didn’t proof it? But STILL.

    Things like band or other music groups (or radio station or writing for magazines / newspapers) were purely extra-currics, not classes, at my school. And likewise there would be tasting seminars offered, but not as classes, just as a fun extra. But the difference in what’s for credit from school to school probably gets accounted for in how the required credit hours are calculated.

    Some of my faves were Anglo-Saxon, a South American birds seminar, evolutionary bio. a class covering early Indian scriptures and history, Jazz, and one on the history of comic theater.

  17. Fred reminded me that my study abroad classes count as electives (which also explains why I couldn’t think of many regular electives, since I was gone for two fall terms in a row). In my total geeky way, I really enjoyed my in-France French phonetics class – I do better visually than orally, so that class really helped me internalize the spoken language. (Well, that class and a few carafes of wine. . . .) I can’t say I loved the “classes” part of the art-history-in-Greece term (I do better with more structure; we roamed from site to site, and it was sort of on us to put together the superstructure from the individual data points. Plus I had no art background, and we were graded in part on our ability to draw stuff). But I sure loved the trip!

  18. Oh, definitely my course on Romanesque art. Or maybe the one on Byzantine art. Loved them both. I still remember almost everything from both courses. Those are also the courses in which I produced my best writing. I have always said, if you want to read really good prose and work hard at writing such prose, take an advanced art history course.

    I also loved the grad course on medieval history that I took one summer. How else could I have learned about Joachim of Fiore and the spiritual Franciscans (a schismatic group in the middle ages)?

  19. Reading the piece made me think that the SLAC experience (at least my SLAC experience) is not like the state flagship (or is it regional directional?). We had lots of distribution requirements, but no “electives” like described in the piece (watch a lot of videos during class time and “really easy!”). All the weird and random classes were major classes for someone – so they still had significant reading lists and lots of work expected. I did take a great class on sex and sexuality as a freshman – which was super exciting and taboo (at least for 18 year old me from a rural Red State). I dropped out of a class on the the psychology of comedy – too much work for a class I didn’t need, but not after we spent a few tedious weeks learning about humor among the Cherokee (spoiler: doesn’t translate well).

    The art classes at my school were fairly theoretical. I took quite a few – I think I’ve shared that was my major? Anyway, they always were filled to capacity. Then kids would show up on the first day for “intro to ceramics” and find out that there were 2 novels, 2 theory books and 2 technical guides we were going to work through, as well as write a paper or two. Petulant students would say, “but I just want to make things!” and they drop right out. Ceramics as a hobby is great – but there is really no reason someone should be paying SLAC tuition (or worse! borrowing it!) to do something that can be taught at the local community center for $120 for an 8 week course.

  20. The Wines course I took was more rigorous than expected. Some students took it for a grade but most took it as a pure elective – pass fail.

  21. “Choir, organ and ancient Greek history were my favorite (and almost only) electives.”

    “I graduated with ~192 semester hours for a major that required 134 semester hours.”

    Sounds like you took a bunch of choir, organ, and ancient Greek history classes.

    But I understand that if you don’t take a lot of credits beyond the graduation requirements, engineering doesn’t allow for many electives. All undergrad engineering curricula that I’ve had a chance to see, for example, don’t include foreign language.

    DW had a rare chance to take an elective while working toward her Master’s. So she took. . . a foreign language.

  22. “you’re an executive at the tuna company catching dolphins in their nets, and class you’re the reporters. Go!”

    Have you ever seen the Warren Beatty/Elaine May version of “Heaven Can Wait?”

    This is a pretty bad pan/scan, but your post reminded me of the scene about 30 minutes in.

  23. I also changed majors, so most of my “electives” were calculus, chemistry and physics, yuck. Still I managed wine tasting and ancient Greek history. Once I was in the right major, almost all of my classes were interesting.

  24. I wish I had figured out that I was in the wrong major. I would have loved to have taken all English classes and ended up taking none. My favorite elective were Moral Issues and Psych. My favorite law school electives were Law, Literature and Medicine and Medical Ethics. I recall my then-boyfriend, later-to-be-first-husband, taking an elective called The History of a Small American Town. Somewhat unusual since we were at school in Canada. He loved that class, though that may be partly because I wrote all the essays for it.

    I wish DS had more room to take electives. He would love to take every poli sci course available, but is too loaded up with courses for his major, and I don’t think that’s likely to change. It looks like DD will end up at a SLAC, in a direct-admit nursing program. I’m thrilled for her – she’ll get to study abroad and take some terrific electives that her parents and brother didn’t make room for.

  25. “there is really no reason someone should be paying SLAC tuition (or worse! borrowing it!) to do something that can be taught at the local community center for $120 for an 8 week course.”

    Yes!

    Similarly, I don’t want to pay HSS tuition, room, and board so that DS can work a minimum wage job that doesn’t have benefits unique to the HSS experience.

  26. I loved electives, and the Jane Austen seminar was my favorite (credit for discussing books I had read so often I could recite portions of them, woohoo!).

    I also really enjoyed quantum mechanics and microbiology which were electives for me, but I wouldn’t call them easy. In law school we had one class on piracy (arrr, I mean admiralty law) which was fun and entertaining, unless you happen to have been captured by modern pirates.

    But if any child of mine borrows money or spends mine to take a class on makeup…. What else is YouTube for?

  27. I loved my History of Music class. It exposed me to a bunch of new music, and helped me understand a variety of music types better.

  28. But if any child of mine borrows money or spends mine to take a class on makeup…. What else is YouTube for?

    Ok, so some of us took classes on wine tasting, which can have relevance in the adult world. My class discussed the type of grapes and processes used to create different types of wine, the correct wine glasses, and ways to evaluate different qualities and how to tell what “good” wine was. Not actually as frivolous as it seemed, and likely helpful in navigating social settings where having an idea of how to recognize the correct wine glass for the correct wine bottle might have value.

    What classes did you take that might have been difficult to explain to your parents had actual, legitimate value?

  29. Art History was one of the toughest classes at my college. I avoided it for the sheer amount of work required.

  30. “he’d throw you up in front of the class and say something like “you’re an executive at the tuna company catching dolphins in their nets, and class you’re the reporters. Go!” It was a new perspective for me.”

    That does sound like fun, albeit challenging. I took a public speaking class that I really enjoyed, but I don’t remember if it was an elective. I also changed majors, so I ended up with a lot of “electives”.

    There was a Beyonce course at several colleges that made the news rounds a few years ago, and my thought was that I really would not want to be paying $3000 or so for my kid to be taking a Beyonce course. Now, the course may be chock full of relevant knowledge (I’d doubt it) but still . . .

  31. “there is really no reason someone should be paying SLAC tuition (or worse! borrowing it!) to do something that can be taught at the local community center for $120 for an 8 week course.”

    Why work harder than you need to when the only value is getting your ticket punched? I’d ask the same of Finn.

  32. “Why work harder than you need to when the only value is getting your ticket punched? ”

    In many cases that is not the only value. Although, I have concluded that it may be in the majority of cases.

  33. I’ll agree that for many people the only value in college is “ticket-punching.” For people destined to work relatively low-wage, low-skill jobs that require a BA/BS for no good reason, they should get the college degree as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible. I don’t put myself in that group, and I hope my kids aren’t either. In any case, it helps that I live under the illusion that I could be an art critic, gallery owner or very successful artist at any given moment if I just wanted to.

    A $5000 ceramics class is not a good idea for anyone. A $5k class that incorporates painting techniques, theory and critical thinking is a good idea (or at least as much of a good idea as a $5k biology class).

  34. My electives were all during my junior year abroad. I don’t think any courses that year counted towards my major, but I had enough credits from the other 3 years that I was fine. I picked my major early and stuck with it, so that wasn’t a problem.

    I remember nothing academic from the year abroad. Couldn’t even tell you what the courses were.

  35. I took my art history class as pass/fail because I enjoyed the course and I didn’t have to stress about learning all of the history for the exams. I could just focus on the stories that she told in class. Added bonus was that this was the only class that I shared with a student that was a future #1 draft pick. I was a freshman, and I was very excited just to be in this small class with him.

    My other favorite elective was about the presidential elections. I took the class as an elective, but I loved the professor. I was able to squeeze into three of his government classes , and it was worth all of the work. I loved this guy, and I learned so much in his classes.

  36. The make up class will interest one of my kids. I am thinking of lots of small business owners who have an interest or idea that slowly takes off. I was talking to a salesperson at one of the beauty stores and she mentioned that she was excited to meet the CEO of a make up company.
    My Dad’s family has small business owners and they got ideas for their businesses in various ways.

  37. Ada,

    Aren’t you the one you mentioned that Medical School admissions is based on GPA and as such it doesn’t adjust for the rigor of the courses?

  38. I took photography and music appreciation. Arguably, my parents paid quite a bit of money for those two classes. I didn’t take many other electives that were “for fun” because I had so many other requirements to fill. So I guess my parents saw the long game – 2 classes out of ~40+ classes isn’t that horrible (5% of my time). Kinda the equivalent of dinner out 1-2x per month on the middle class salary (let’s say 5% of take home).

    I remember learning from those two electives that (1) I do not belong in a subjective atmosphere for grading. I’m too much a scientist and “by the numbers”. I can say I’ve gotten better, but man, reading my prof was terrible in photography. And (2) it’s really OK to disagree with someone, even if that someone is the voice coach of the woman who’s recital you are reviewing AND that voice coach turns out to be your prof. I wrote a scathing review about the woman’s choice of program and how she sang (you could tell she was classically trained, but chose to do pieces where she sounded nasally or basically shouted at you), not knowing that her coach was my prof. He actually agreed with my assessment of her.

    And that Makeup class may have a lot of future relevance – not just for looking the part, but for understand color and texture. Those are important pieces of presentations and making something stand out.

  39. As some posters have mentioned benign sounding electives may be a lot more work than anticipated. My second kid is interested in one called Art but and I feel it won’t be as easy as she thinks it is.

  40. I’m glad my parents didn’t breathe down my neck about my electives. As long as it counts towards your degree, and as long as you’re completing the requirements for your major, what the hell is wrong with taking something stupid and entertaining?

    “Favorite” is a strong word, but I took a class that was entirely about Charles Darwin and the theories of evolution. Read Origin of Species (zzzzzz) and a lot of Stephen J. Gould and learned about punctuated equilibrium v. gradualism and so on. It’s turned out to be quite useful in its own way.

  41. “As long as it counts towards your degree, and as long as you’re completing the requirements for your major, what the hell is wrong with taking something stupid and entertaining?”

    ITA. I’m shelling out $X for their degrees. No way am I going to drill down to figure out what fraction of $X went to a particular class, and whether I feel that certain fraction of $X was too high based on the content of the class. Totally against my philosophies of (1) being a hands-off parent and (2) avoiding math at all costs.

  42. I took a class “Oliver Stone’s America” in college. It looked at modern American history through his films. He came and spoke to class when it was offered the two years prior, but did not for my class. It was interesting, but we watch all of his movies (up to 2000) for the class, so I spent alot of time in the library watching movies that semester (I also took a German film class). During my study abroad I took a great art history class where we met at different museums around the city. It was like having your own private tour guide.

    I wish someone had clued me in about pass/fail courses and getting easy As through activities/classes, such as choir.

  43. I loved Ballroom Dancing. I had also signed up for Floral Arrangement, but had to drop it because of scheduling conflicts. I also loved my study aboard electives. One in particular was about the Euro, The class was made up of students from all over Europe so there was a lot of great discussions.

    I had a few friends take a basketball coaching class which was taught by a future hall of famer coach.

  44. I loved Ballroom Dancing

    Oh, yeah, I took a really fun folk dancing class. But it was zero credit hours. There were a lot of P.E. classes that were zero credit hours (and likewise ungraded) that were just for fun, and I took several, including Aikido and weight training.

  45. Off topic, please forgive me.

    Our oldest this week did not make the cut for a sports team that he really really wanted and that (most importantly) he worked REALLY hard for. Heartbreaking to see. DH and I have earned gold stars for our reaction with him (supportive without overreacting) but it sucked. Parenting is tough.

    Back on topic…

  46. Lark, I’m so sorry for your son. I know how heartbreaking that is.

    On topic, my favorite electives were bowling and volleyball.

  47. High grades are necessary but not sufficient for medical school admission, just as high SAT scores are necessary but not sufficient for highly selective school admission.

    A GPA of 3.0 in college will get you auto-selected out of most medical school application pools. A GPA of 3.0+ keeps you in. I do think they look at the rigor of the classes – if your GPA is high. If it is low, no one is looking. Engineering with a 3.7 is going to look better than Psychology at 3.7. Flagship U 3.7 is going to look better than Directional U 3.7. Most medical school reject 95% of applicants – there are no “safety schools” in medicine (except perhaps in the Caribbean). Tulane, BU, Creighton – have lower than average MCAT scores and GPAs and still are admitting 6% of students.

    I had a letter of rec from a Physics prof. He said nice things and specific things about me – it was brought up in one of my interviews. “We get students from that big school down the road from you [referring to gigantic, well-respected,expensive private university] who get A’s in all their classes and then their letters say, ‘She was just fine’ and it seems that can’t even remember who she was. From your school, we get students who get a B- in a class [my Physics grade] and they write about what an exceptional student you are.” So they look beyond the grades, as long as the grades are good enough (I had a 3.3-ish – which made me on the very low end of the distribution).

  48. Lark – aw, that’s a sad one.

    You may/may not be helped by the notion that big bummers like this are good, particularly ones that come early enough that the kids are living at home when they happen, with supportive parents to help them through it. I always told myself this was better than having them glide through life getting all they wanted, only to have their first big blow come in adulthood, when the stakes could be higher, their reaction far more extreme, etc.

    This concludes The Silver Linings Program. You may now return to your regularly scheduled program.

  49. Lark,

    That’s awful. Yes it will make him stronger, but no one wants their kids to need to be strong.

  50. Lark, that’s tough. Tomorrow’s post will be a bit related to your son’s experience . . .

    Some of the comments reminded me about a couple of photography classes that I loved and ballet class, which I took for the first time ever when I was 18. Our local high school has a strong film arts department, which I think accounts for so many young people I know who have gone on to major in some sort of film studies in college. Surprisingly, not all of them get jobs in that field after graduation.

  51. Lark, what Risley said. While I’m sure you’re all disappointed for him, I hope the experience brings you closer together.

  52. Lark, definitely can empathize with both you and your kid. Kids are pretty resilient, though, especially if they can see the process was fair, and if the parents take the ex-ante view that the process was fair (realistically it may not have been, but then that’s part of life, too). That’s the first question I always asked my kids when something like this happened “do you think you were given a fair shot?” Honestly, they always said yes.

  53. “As long as it counts towards your degree, and as long as you’re completing the requirements for your major, what the hell is wrong with taking something stupid and entertaining?”

    I will be extremely disappointed if my kids *don’t* take something stupid and entertaining in college.

    Lark, ugh, sorry. ITA with Risley, but that doesn’t make the moment any easier.

  54. “Why work harder than you need to when the only value is getting your ticket punched? I’d ask the same of Finn.”

    IF the only value is getting your ticket punched, then I agree that it makes sense to put in just as much as needed.

    But I hope my kids’ college experiences are not just cases of getting their tickets punched.

    Paying for a HSS, or even paying partly for a moderately SS, would be a waste of money if my kids view it only as punching their tickets. I expect them to immerse themselves in the experiences to maximize the value received.

  55. “Kids are pretty resilient, though, especially if they can see the process was fair”

    If the process doesn’t seem fair, that’s a major life lesson too.

  56. Paying for a HSS, or even paying partly for a moderately SS, would be a waste of money if my kids view it only as punching their tickets.

    You do agree that the ticket punching and alumni network constitute the largest portion of the value add at a HSS?

  57. I think the “Value Add” from a HSS depends largely on what your life goals are. My distant acquaintance with a linguistics degree from Stanford now homeschools her children with a much better knowledge of linguistics than if she didn’t have it.

  58. You do agree that the ticket punching and alumni network constitute the largest portion of the value add at a HSS?

    The ticket punching is the largest portion of the value of any college degree.

  59. Thanks all. Since it sounds like our post tomorrow will be related, I’ll save further comments.

  60. I would also add that, in terms or pure pedagogy, there is little evidence that a HSS provide a better education than a less selective one. Indeed, in many cases, the quality of the education is inferior to what one could receive at a less prestigious school.

  61. “I’m glad my parents didn’t breathe down my neck about my electives. As long as it counts towards your degree, and as long as you’re completing the requirements for your major, what the hell is wrong with taking something stupid and entertaining?”

    ITA. I took photography, and no it was not all about theory with heavy reading (who wants that?). It was an intro class about how to work a camera, compose a shot, develop film, work prints in the darkroom, cropping to get a better shot, and having your work critiqued. I loved it. I also took some other electives although I don’t remember now which ones fulfilled gen ed requirements – The Life and Legacy of Gandhi, Art History I (excluded Impressionism and later which were in class II), Bowling, Film Studies, French Literature, etc. I thought they were all interesting & wouldn’t trade them for more classes on Advanced Econometrics or Tax Accounting. In theory, those are more applicable to my job, but being able to talk about photography, Gandhi, and art history have helped me more in my career as stated above.

    Lark – I’m sorry. That just stinks. Yeah, learning experience, blah blah blah. But it still sucks. A lot.

  62. ” I expect them to immerse themselves in the experiences to maximize the value received.”

    I would argue that taking photography or ceramics is maximizing the value in a different way.

  63. I think the quality of education at any school might be different between majors. My undergrad college might be a HSS, but there are several undergrad schools and there are differences between the programs. My cousin is attending Cornell now, and she just transferred between schools because she didn’t like her classes or teachers in the original school. Some of her Intro classes are really large, and the quality is based on her TA.

    A good or great experience might ultimately rest with the student. They have to find the right classes and professors. If they just coast through without getting to know some professors, it won’t be a great experience at any school. The same is true of the friendships and relationships that are formed.

  64. My university didn’t have electives like ballroom dancing or wine tasting. Instead, those were offered through the Free University, which was basically students teaching other students. It was insanely popular. I tried to get courses several times through the Free University, and was always closed out. These classes were free and had no grades.

    I was lucky in that I was mostly able to bypass the Intro to Subject style electives. I had to talk my way into the Romanesque art history course, since it was a junior/senior class for majors. I always wondered why the professor took a chance on little ol’ me, computer science junior, and let me in. I think it was because I had read a bunch of my mother’s art history textbooks already and was able to talk to the professor a little. Once I had an A in that course, she was fine with me taking Byzantine the next semester.

  65. From my kids summer camp choices, I can see them taking something like photography or Ball room dancing. They might also go for Art History. In college I see them being engaged enough but they do like downtime and playing with friends, so I would expect that social part to continue on in college (they are much more social than I was at their age).

  66. I’m sorry. I remember little. I was a college freshman 48 years ago. But I do recall that I loved my Logic 101 course (rigorous) and being able to prove Gödel’s Theorem. I did take two architecture survey courses on European architecture – Medieval and Renaissance/Baroque.

  67. Sorry Lark. Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team right? Or something like that…

    I don’t think my parents had any clue what classes I was taking at college. I graduated in four years and I’m sure if there was a delay in that milestone they would have become more involved but they weren’t going to involve themselves in the details.

  68. We don’t put any restrictions on our college kids’ elective choices. This is the time to explore areas–they’re not likely to study art history, for example, once they’re out working.
    I really regret not studying art history in college. I suspected I wouldn’t do well?and I was too protective of my GPA. As a consequence, I really know nothing about art.

  69. Oh Lark, I hate that for you and for your son. I can’t remember if he’s out of elementary school but one of the big disservices I think “we as a society” do to kids is have selective sports in elementary school. No room for late bloomers or kids who just want to have fun.
    My favorite elective was “Early Italian Renaissance Art” which I took to fill a requirement when every other class was closed. It opened up a world to me.

  70. I took art history in high school. It was really rigorous. It’s the reason I can answer all the art and art history questions on Jeopardy. I actually messaged the daughter of my art history teacher and asked her to tell her dad how great the class was. She seemed pleased and said she’d definitely tell her now-elderly father.

  71. I wish I could remember my art teacher’s name because he really was fascinating. College was a long time ago. All those slides in art class in the 80’s! If I’m recalling correctly, part of the origin of facebook involved Mark Zuckerburg crowd-sourcing his studying for an art history class.

  72. Been crazy at work again, heading to the Mayo clinic in Minnesota with DH tomorrow, wish us luck

  73. “You do agree that the ticket punching and alumni network constitute the largest portion of the value add at a HSS?”

    But if my kids only wanted that, I wouldn’t pay full fare anywhere. A less SS that gives a full tuition scholarship would be fine for that.

  74. Yeah, you’re right, RMS, but if I were faced with a dilemma similar to the friend of a friend I mentioned before (~$290k for Princeton vs. ~$90k for USC), I don’t know that the better alumni network would be worth the $200k. Of course, it might not need to account for the full $200k, ad a Princeton degree might be worth more than a USC degree.

    If Rhett, or anyone else, has a way to value the alumni network in today’s dollars, I am all ears.

    But not paying full fare just to punch a ticket would be mostly on principle.

  75. Oops, it might not need to account for the full $200k, as a Princeton degree might be worth more than a USC degree.

  76. A less SS that gives a full tuition scholarship would be fine for that.

    No, it won’t. By ticket punching I mean access to high prestige/high paying jobs. Your diploma from a lower SS isn’t going to work nearly as well. That’s the whole point.

  77. “Your diploma from a lower SS isn’t going to work nearly as well. ”

    You think a Princeton ticket is worth $200k more than a USC ticket in today’s dollars, ignoring any consumptive benefits?

    Or closer to home for you, would a Harvard ticket be worth $100k more than a BU ticket, similarly ignoring consumptive benefits?

  78. Or closer to home for you, would a Harvard ticket be worth $100k more than a BU ticket, similarly ignoring consumptive benefits?

    Most certainly – you’d only have to make $5k a year more over a lifetime for the extra $100k for Harvard to be worth it. If you can’t convert a Harvard diploma into an extra $5k a year then you’re doing something very wrong.

  79. What do “consumptive benefits” mean? And the $5k/year ignores inflation, taxes, childcare expenses and any additional work hours necessary to earn the additional $.

    If you are going to be, say, a physician, with a billing rate set by the federal government, it would be hard to monetize the benefits of a Harvard undergraduate degree.

  80. Of course, I’ll need to keep in mind that it’s $100k or $200k of DW’s and my money vs. extra earnings for my kids.

    Perhaps if they get accepted to Harvard we’ll pay, but they’ll be on the hook for our nursing home bills.

  81. “What do “consumptive benefits” mean?”

    Someone here recently noted, sagely, that “Higher education is either an investment or a form of consumption.” The ticket punching aspect is investment. The consumptive benefit is the college experience itself.

    “And the $5k/year ignores inflation, taxes, childcare expenses and any additional work hours necessary to earn the additional $.”

    I did note, “today’s dollars.” Perhaps the expectation of a working career longer than 20 years roughly offsets inflation, while I assume the $5k/year is after taxes and expenses.

  82. If you are going to be, say, a physician, with a billing rate set by the federal government, it would be hard to monetize the benefits of a Harvard undergraduate degree.

    No it wouldn’t. You’d get into a better medical school which would ease your entry in a lucrative specialty.

  83. OK, I agree that if your goal is to monetize the Harvard degree, it likely wouldn’t be hard to do so. But an acquaintance with the scores to be an anesthesiologist became a pediatrician, because she preferred the lifestyle/option to work part-time to spend more time with her children/geographic trade-offs.

    I didn’t assume that monetizing the degree was a primary goal. To me, one of the benefits of not attending a prestigious school is not having student loan debt that forces you to monetize the degree.

  84. “If you are going to be, say, a physician, with a billing rate set by the federal government, it would be hard to monetize the benefits of a Harvard undergraduate degree.”

    Yes, if as a physician you will spend your career seeing patients.

    OTOH, perhaps that Harvard degree and its network will help you move into a job that is less constrained by federal (and insurance company) reimbursement rates, e.g., medical administration, medical or pharmaceutical R&D, teaching.

    We’ve met quite a few MDs here, mainly parents of our kids’ classmates. Very broadly generalizing, those who graduated from private HS themselves tended to go to HSS or somewhat HSS for undergrad, with many going to local flagship for med school, apparently valuing the consumptive benefit and prestige of the undergrad degree/experience (a lot also went to HSS/somewhat HSS for med school). Those who graduated from public schools tended to go to local flagship U for undergrad and med school, with undergrad education apparently being looked at much more by them as ticket punching.

  85. I didn’t assume that monetizing the degree was a primary goal.

    Maybe I’m mis-remembering, but I thought you mentioned that you chose engineer, at least in part, due to the ease of finding a decent paying job with an engineering degree.

  86. “No it wouldn’t. You’d get into a better medical school which would ease your entry in a lucrative specialty.”

    Once again you see an angle that I did not.

    You really do bring a lot of value to our conversations here.

  87. How much more would the Harvard undergrad degree be worth than one from BU (or USC) if, in both cases, they were followed by a Harvard grad degree, e.g., JD, MD, MBA?

    A lot of people here advocated for the less expensive undergrad in part to save money for a more prestigious grad school.

    Again, this is from the ticket punching perspective, not taking into account the consumptive benefits.

  88. Rhett, I chose a degree that could be monetized, but people who aren’t financially independent at 17 may have the flexibility to make a different educational choice. I don’t know if Finn would be happy, disappointed or neutral if his child made the sorts of life choices that I have made, which have been facilitated by the absence of student loan debt and a professional income in my 20’s.

    I would have enjoyed going to a more prestigious school because I would have enjoyed the peer group and because I like to learn for its own sake, but the student loan debt would have left me less free to make the life choices I have made.

  89. How much more would the Harvard undergrad degree be worth than one from BU (or USC) if, in both cases, they were followed by a Harvard grad degree, e.g., JD, MD, MBA?

    If you went from Harvard to Bain or McKinsey then into Corporate America, I don’t know that a USC/Harvard MD would ever be able to catch up financially. I bet an MBA could but I’m not sure about a JD.

  90. In some companies that I have been at undergrad school name mattered. So, the more prestigious your school name was, the more prestigious jobs you could apply for. I agree with Rhett that in certain fields your undergrad could propel you upwards pretty quickly.

  91. A Harvard JD opens every legal door. Same with the other elite law schools. Your undergrad school is just a sticker on the car. JD Vance is Exhibit A, and he left Biglaw for finance.

  92. I just think you’re ignoring some of the value that you can not know about in 2016. For example, I once influenced awarding a deal worth many $ in annual revenue to a bank because I attended college with the banker that pitched the business. I didn’t select the four banks that were in the initial beauty contest, but my manager didn’t really care which one we picked to award the new business because the pitches were similar in price, structure and execution. Four banks bidding for the same business, and they had almost identical fees. We already did a lot of business with each of these banks, and we would have been fine with all four since it was a commoditized service. I told my manager that I knew Joe Smith, and I thought we should choose his team to lead the deal because I trusted him, and wanted to work with his team. He agreed, and it really was not a choice about quality because all four banks would have done an excellent job selling our new product to the street.

    My husband insists that he only got an interview at his current firm because he went to college with one of the officers of the firm. This was years before everything was online, and he needed a contact inside this investment firm to get the interview. He emailed this guy that lived in his dorm, and he hadn’t talked to him in over 20 years. The guy was willing to forward the resume because they lived on the same floor, and he got the initial interview.

    I know you can make these contacts at public schools too. In some parts of the country, it is even more important to make these contacts at the local U vs. Harvard. My point is that whether you spend $10,000/year, or $70,000/year, the kids have to realize that the undergrad experience only happens once in their life. They shouldn’t just rush through because relationships are important…this includes professors, and friends. The undergrad network can be different from grad school because it is not as competitive. These are the people that you met when you were becoming an adult, and I think they tend to be a little more warm and forgiving vs. the people I met in my MBA program. i think my friends that went to med school and law school would say the same. Their life long friends are generally from college, but not necessarily from grad school.

  93. Scarlett – there are two paths – one as Rhett and I described and the other as you have mentioned.

  94. “A Harvard JD opens every legal door. Same with the other elite law schools.”

    It seems like only Harvard and Yale open the SCOTUS door. BTW, IMO, that’s not a good thing.

    “Your undergrad school is just a sticker on the car.”

    OK, I want to make sure I get this. So USC undergrad/Harvard JD opens just as many doors as Harvard undergrad/Harvard JD, at least in legal circles?

    I suppose USC/Harvard has the advantage of two alumni networks.

  95. “I would have enjoyed going to a more prestigious school because I would have enjoyed the peer group and because I like to learn for its own sake”

    I.e., consumptive benefits.

  96. Rhett, I wasn’t trying to compare MD vs JD vs MBA. I was trying to compare BU undergrad/Harvard grad school with Harvard undergrad/Harvard grad school for the same Harvard grad degree. E.g., given a Harvard MBA, how much more is a Harvard undergrad degree worth than a BU undergrad degree?

    I’m assuming the Harvard MBA would reduce the benefit of the Harvard undergrad degree.

    Hmm, perhaps a better question would be more like Yale undergrad/Harvard MBA vs. BU undergrad/Harvard MBA, since the Harvard/Harvard combination is handicapped by having a single alumni network, or perhaps more accurately, two networks with a lot of overlap.

  97. Finn,

    You also have to compare the career trajectory and earnings of the Harvard no grad school vs. BU then HBS. Given that you can go from Harvard to Bain to Corporate America and you can’t go from Harvard to HBS without a few years of work experience and HBS is two years full time, I don’t know that the BU+HBS option puts you in a better place long term than Harvard+Bain.

  98. Rhett, so are you saying that it’s pretty much a no-brainer decision to go to Harvard at $290k over BU at $190k or USC at $90K?

    Then how about Harvard at $290K vs. Stanford at $290K vs. Columbia at $300K vs. Penn (not Wharton) at $300K vs. Yale at $290K?

  99. Rhett, so are you saying that it’s pretty much a no-brainer decision to go to Harvard at $290k over BU at $190k or USC at $90K?

    I’d say so.

    Then how about Harvard at $290K vs. Stanford at $290K vs. Columbia at $300K vs. Penn (not Wharton) at $300K vs. Yale at $290K?

    At that point it would be down to the weather, campus vibe, etc.

  100. “At that point it would be down to the weather, campus vibe, etc.”

    Interesting. Those factors are all experiential.

    From my local perspective, WRT the value of the ticket punched, Harvard wins out over all of the schools I listed except perhaps Stanford.

    Penn, in particular, is not well-recognized as a top school. Mention Penn or the University of Pennsylvania here, and a lot of people will ask if you mean Penn State. Perhaps President Trump will change that.

  101. Penn, in particular, is not well-recognized as a top school.

    What about Wharton? I’m not sure how exactly it works but you can be both a grad and undergrad at Wharton.

  102. Wharton isn’t that well known here. While among certain circles it carries a lot of prestige, those circles exclude many here. I hadn’t heard of Wharton before I was a senior in HS looking at colleges.

    One of the reasons I’m asking these questions here is to get a better feel for the value of those names and networks elsewhere.

    And closer to home, DS won’t be applying to Wharton, at least not this year.

  103. Finn – I would say Harvard first. Then Stanford (Silicon Valley association). Then Yale, Princeton. If business then Wharton is a good name to have.
    In many parts of the country some of the big state flagships have bigger name recognition than a lot of private schools. So, UC Berkeley, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Wisconsin (Madison).
    Another factor to consider is your major, so a major like engineering would have Stanford, MIT at the top of the list.

  104. This could be a regional thing, but plenty of people on the east coast know the difference between Penn and Penn State. Penn is also well known for highly ranked graduate programs in law, medicine and nursing. I run into quite a few lawyers and doctors that work in NY metro that went to Penn. Wharton is a brand that is equal to Harvard or Stanford for many people. I used to go to Wharton every year for on campus recruiting. I would leave at the end of the day feeling like a fraud because many of the students were so smart , and had already accomplished a lot in their brief lives.

  105. Lauren, yes, I’m pretty sure the lack of awareness of Penn here is a regional issue. I’m guessing there are a lot of schools in your area with very good reputations that are almost unknown here, especially outside the UMC bubble.

    I think Harvard and Stanford (and perhaps MIT) are exceptions to that lack of awareness locally. So for a kid from here, in Rhett’s terms, those tickets are probably worth more than the others.

    I guess this discussion sheds some light on the value in college athletics. There are a lot of schools that I, and I’m sure many others, would not know of if it weren’t for their athletic teams. Whatever name recognition those teams provides adds value to the diplomas from those schools.

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