When the LSA Course Guide gets posted online, it seems as if everyone on campus is talking about it.

It reminds me of those innocent days right after the newest Harry Potter book got released. Everyone is talking about the same things: Who is RAB? What on Earth is a Horcrux? Who did Harry snog this time? The main difference between those days and the present is that we are now in control of the future. We could have written all the letters to JK Rowling we wanted, but she was never going to listen to our suggestions (even for Harry’s kids’ God awful names).

As students, we have eight short semesters to define our college career. We will choose to focus on different things, be they extracurriculars, parties, intramural sports or Twitter. The one unifying factor is class, and we get to choose those.

Luckily, as a history major, the world — or, in this case, the Course Guide — is my oyster and I don’t have burdensome requirements. I know that this is a privilege that pre-med, Engineering, Business and other students don’t have. However, I also know that each of these departments leave some room for electives.

From our favorite resource, Wikipedia: “Elective, used as an adjective, means that it is optional and chosen by election.” Inherent in this definition is the concept of choice. We choose to take these courses.

So why do so many of us confuse the word “elective” with “blow-off?” Usually when I hear people talk about selecting classes for next semester, I hear the phrase, “I need an easy A so I’m taking…” followed by some class they are not passionate about.

But the reason why electives exist is to allow students to take classes that we are interested in but do not necessarily fit into our field of study. Electives are not designed to boost our GPA or fill our credit load to graduate.

We all have interests that lie outside our field of study. I have a friend who is a Program in the Environment major but is fascinated by public policy and politics. My cousin wants to be a sports journalist, but is really interested in Middle East history. My housemate is pre-med, but finds social issues intriguing.

And the beauty of going to a school as big as ours is that there are tons of courses in each of these fields offered each semester. Not only is it easy for us to take electives that we are interested in, taking these courses will actually help inform your own field of study.

The PitE major will inevitably try to influence the political debate in some way. The journalist may be sent to the Middle East to cover a major sporting event. The doctor will be able to treat patients better if he or she knows what social influences pushed them to need treatment in the first place.

Now lets zoom out and look at the broader implications of choosing blow-off classes over ones we might actually be interested in. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, only 27 percent of Americans have a college degree. According to a May 2010 study by Harvard University and the Asian Development Bank, only 6.7 percent of people in the entire world have degrees. Even smaller percentages are able to attend as prestigious a university as ours.

A number cannot represent our education, even if we extend it two decimal points. It can only be represented in the knowledge that you gain in our short time in the classroom. It seems shortsighted to skip over classes that interest us for ones that we will sleep through just for that 4.0.

Electives offer us a break from the structured schedule of our major. We should not squander the opportunity that we have been given with electives we are not passionate about.

This semester, we should all take a good, hard look at our planned schedules for next year. We are either going to be interested in our required classes or not; there is no choice in these classes. I think it is time for us to choose classes for the same reason we chose Harry Potter: pure, magical interest.

Yonah Lieberman can be reached at yonahl@umich.edu. Follow him on twitter at @YonahLieberman.

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