What was your favorite course in college?
April 25, 2008 4:21 PM   Subscribe

What was your favorite course in college?

I have a few electives over the next couple of semesters and I would love to fill them with some great classes. I'm looking for classes that you couldn't get enough of or classes that now, five years later, you wish you had taken.

Answers don't necessarily have to be specific classes; they can be a type of class such as computer, math, english, music, religion, foreign language, etc.

Personal Info: Junior Human Resources Development major attending a university with over 5,000 students.
posted by bobber to Education (90 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Loved almost all of my philosophy classes.

There was a really hyped-up "human sexuality" (psych) class but it didn't really live up to all that.

Really wish there was an observational astronomy class offered when I was in undergrad - at my current school there's one, but there are a lot of pre-requisites, for some odd reason.

Are there any big names in their field at your school? Do they offer a lower level (ie., does not require [too many] pre-reqs) classes?
posted by porpoise at 4:24 PM on April 25, 2008

Social History of the United States. A great new perspective on things I always assumed were not subject to anyone's interpretation (biochem & cell bio major at a small research university).
posted by halogen at 4:24 PM on April 25, 2008

Best answer: Inexplicably, Urban Planning. That will be of little help to you, since my love of the course entirely had to do with the professor. Moral of the story: find the best professors rather than the best subjects.
posted by found missing at 4:26 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most of the elective classes (maybe all) that I ended up really really loving were ones that I loved because the instructor was awesome. A took a class on greek mythology that was interesting but really came to life because of the instructor and had a similar experience with an astronomy class. They could have been any subject but being in the class of a really incredible teacher is an amazing experience. So ask around on your campus for recommendations on teachers!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2008

I took Italian Cinema when I was doing my undergrad in computer engineering. It was probably the hardest, and most rewarding, class I took in all of undergrad. It was refreshing to exercise the other half of my brain for once. I took a few other humanities such as introductory music classes but they didn't have the level of rigor that the cinema class had that made it such a challenge.
posted by zsazsa at 4:29 PM on April 25, 2008

I loved Number Theory and Combinatorics.
posted by Proginoskes at 4:30 PM on April 25, 2008

Effective Writing - Best, most useful class I ever took.
posted by Phalene at 4:34 PM on April 25, 2008

I took an intro-level Linguistics class on a lark, and it totally changed my life. I had no idea that stuff could be so fascinating, and could apply to so many different disciplines.
posted by yalestar at 4:34 PM on April 25, 2008

Folklore and Popular Culture. Hands down.

But I think that Otherworldyglow really has something there: even if the material is fascinating, the class might suck just because the instructor does. Once you've figured out which classes you're interested in, ask around about the instructors. Not only is Folklore and Popular Culture absolutely fascinating, but the prof was excellent: he encouraged critical thinking, engaging discussions, and the projects were super interesting.

And you might want to check out an art or music class, like an intro to World Music, a popular music class, or a drawing or ceramics class. I was a music and art major in undergrad, and so I'm biased, but I think they're wonderfully fun!

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 4:35 PM on April 25, 2008

I LOVED my sociology classes. Now, when looking back, I wish I had taken Photography.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:35 PM on April 25, 2008

Art History. I still regret selling that textbook. Also the Introduction to World Lit (i.e. Comparative Literature) course that I loved so much I switched my major. I agree that the prof makes a huge difference, though. Maybe ask around and see what other students at your university have to say.
posted by elizard at 4:37 PM on April 25, 2008

Judaism 101 was interesting. Women's Studies was interesting. Both provided a very valuable filter for all of the history, philosophy, and literature classes I was taking. There is a lot of bias in your curriculum itself you may never have recognised unless you have something to inform against it.

I briefly attended Providence College, however, and the unique Western Civ classes there (over two years, required for every single student) was the best grounding in cultural literacy I could have ever asked for. If you're a math major, it is still useful to know who Ezra Pound is, and if you're an English Lit major, some exposure to John Calvin is a nice thing to have.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:38 PM on April 25, 2008

Intro to Computer Programming. The course taught a useful and interesting skill, and all the students worked on their problem sets at around the same time in the same room, late at night, so it was very social and fun.

Social Psychology. The professor was a really talented and funny lecturer, and a lot of the material is fascinating and applicable in daily life. Also it was an easy A.

Archaeology. We got to do a dig on campus! Your school may not offer intro archeology courses that actually let you do digs, but if they do offer one, take it. It's a unique experience--the work is very different from most other courses you take in college.

Of course, a lot of classes are only good because of the professor or the teaching staff or because you happen to really dig the material. I tried picking courses based on the professor's reputation and this worked out well for the most part--you can tell in the first couple of days whether their style clicks with you, and if it doesn't, you can drop the class. (Many of the campus's most popular professors were great, but a surprising number I thought,were terrible. When I couldn't decide what to register for, I used to subscribe for one course more than a regular courseload and then drop my least favorite class after a week or two.)
posted by phoenixy at 4:40 PM on April 25, 2008

Moral of the story: find the best professors rather than the best subjects.

In my experience, this is absolutely, 100% true. My favorite classes in college have been taught by my favorite profs--I don't think that's a coincidence. Ask your friends for their "can't miss" prof recommendations, or see who's getting the highest marks on rateyourprofs.com or something similar.

That being said, the general electives I'd recommend are Into to Art History and Social Psychology. Art History because there's nothing more thrilling than seeing great works of art in person after you've studied them in a classroom and because it'll make you sound smart at cocktail parties. Social psych because it was easy (at least at my school) and it gave some great insight into human behavior.
posted by cosmic osmo at 4:42 PM on April 25, 2008

I'm currently enrolled in my senior seminar, entitled "Music and Religion," wherein we're studying Reggae (within the context of Rastafari), Hip Hop (with a focus on the Five Percenters), and Qawwali (in relation to Sufism). I freaking love. this. class. The professor is brilliant (seriously, so brilliant), and we're analyzing music on both phenomenological, rhythmic, and lyrical levels. I'm so sad that we're on the quarter system instead of the semester system; I never want this class to end!

My other favorite classes include "Nordic Mythology," "African American Religions," and "Gender and Sexuality" (Women's Studies 001). The last one completely transformed the way that I perceive the world, and provided me with a vocabulary for problematic situations that I had encountered in my life but couldn't quite pin down. All of a sudden, I found myself with a lens through which I could really understand the world around me. I really wish that WMST classes were an essential part of the general education curriculum; I believe it would benefit everyone.

Years ago, I took a music class at UC Santa Cruz called "The History of the Beatles." Being a huge Beatles fan, it was pretty marvelous (also, it was at Santa Cruz; if you know anything about it, you can infer why I might have enjoyed it as much as I did).
posted by numinous at 4:48 PM on April 25, 2008

both. Aarg.
posted by numinous at 4:50 PM on April 25, 2008

Existentialist Philosophy was pretty awesome, as was the History of Scientific Philosophy.

All of my Computer Science classes were pretty fantastic too, but my year-long Sr. Projects class was probably the best (obviously doesn't make a sense for a non-major).
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:57 PM on April 25, 2008

Just pick a professor who has a great teaching reputation. The subject won't matter.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:57 PM on April 25, 2008

It was a basic CAD class. It wasn't on the syllabus or anything, but after learning simple AutoCAD basics it somehow morphed into a robotics class. We built two separate robots controlled by simple C programming and had competitions. Of course they had to be extensively designed in CAD first so there was something to grade.

I think overall it's the teachers that make the class. My close second were Calculus 2, 3 and 4 based solely on the teacher. You can't really make calc a lot of fun, but somehow I looked forward to those classes more than any others.
posted by sanka at 4:58 PM on April 25, 2008

Astronomy and Children's Literature.

Oh and I really liked Intro to Jazz.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:58 PM on April 25, 2008

Favorite classes: History of Math Notation and History and Technology of Silk (which were both taught by the same brilliant professor). Two other classes I remember fondly were Hermeneutics and Theory & Practice of Translation. I was a Linguistics major (emphasis on the history of English) at a small womens' college.

I agree with everyone who says that the right professor makes all the difference--but you should also find a subject area you're curious about. And don't worry about how the courses will apply in the real world.
posted by Lycaste at 4:59 PM on April 25, 2008

Nthing all of those who said their favorite instructors were at the helm of their favorite college courses. I recommend Media Law, Modern Art History, Writing Young Adult Fiction and the History of Rock N' Roll.

Have fun!
posted by princesspathos at 4:59 PM on April 25, 2008

Or, take something that teaches you something practical. SCUBA wasn't my favorite class but I still have my Advanced NAUI certification from it. Chances are good I'd never have bothered after college just because of the time and money.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:59 PM on April 25, 2008

Ancient History.

If Rome or Athens is mentioned anywhere in the syllabus, it ain't an ancient history class.
posted by Science! at 5:00 PM on April 25, 2008

nthing -again- those who said seek out the best professors.

Economics was surprisingly awesome. It made me think about things I might not have otherwise.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:02 PM on April 25, 2008

Nthing the 'find a professor' idea - my favorite course (Operating Systems and Networks) was all about the lecturer. Failing that - do a language! If you have 'a few' courses, you could get through a good intro level of any language, and have a good start at either taking on that language seriously, or knowing how to study a different language.
posted by jacalata at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2008

I liked my philosophy classes too. The department at my school was heavily analytic (as opposed to continental). This means the classes were very... analytic. I liked that in nearly every single one of them, the professors or instructors truly encouraged students to think for themselves. In my experience, in many other humanities and social science classes, professors definitely have their own views that they tend to push heavily. They often claim they want you to think for yourself, but the easiest way to a good grade was often to gain an understanding of their views, without necessarily understanding all the arguments. I found this not to be the case with philosophy. Even in classes where the professors DEFINITELY had their own views, like an applied ethics class that I took, truly independent thought was encouraged more than in most other classes I took. They also tended to have a higher percent of in class time spent on discussion, as opposed to lecture, which fits in with what I've said so far. I usually enjoy discussions more than lecture. I like learning, not necessarily being taught.

Also, I liked linguistics classes. I highly, highly enjoyed sociolinguistics. I think this was largely because the professor was really excellent. She had a good reputation within her field, and was highly knowledgeable, but more importantly was a good teacher. There was a fair amount of time spent on lecture, but she explained things very well. The subject matter was really interesting too though. A lot of people I know who took intro to linguistics really liked that too. I think this is based largely on the material. I'd recommend it (I took the Spanish department equivalent to it, so much similar material, but not identical). I think you'd find the material to be pretty similar across schools for intro courses.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2008

My favorite class was one I took the last quarter, to fulfill some cross-cultural requirement that had absolutely nothing to do with my science degree, and it was a comparative history of world religions course. It was freaking amazing and I learned more about different religions and how they are similar than ever before.
posted by mathowie at 5:06 PM on April 25, 2008

Nth-ing the "find the best professors" advice. My fave class was a Literary Theory and Comparative Literature class taught in the Religion department. It was small, extraordinarily interactive, and the prof was huge into the class because it was fueling a book he was writing. Lord that was fifteen years ago. I envy you having these choices ahead of you. Good luck.
posted by jmstephan at 5:07 PM on April 25, 2008

I'm still in school, but so far my favorites have ranked as follows:

Gothic Literature
Communication Design 1 (mainly for the antics of the incomparable Roland Young)
Music and Sound in the 20th Century (which introduced my ignorant ass to all the jazz greats)
Children's Literature
Ocean Science
Fashion Photo 1&2 (liked it so much I'm taking it a THIRD time)

This coming term I'm looking forward to "Current Film: Critique and Analysis", "Head and Hands" (drawing class, which I think is essential for any photographer), and "Effective Self Promotion".
posted by arishaun at 5:07 PM on April 25, 2008

sound engineering
posted by gcat at 5:07 PM on April 25, 2008

Art History. You learn all the same stuff as plain old History from the vantage point of the artists. Plus there's pictures n' stuff. Even when the prof sucks, it's still extremely interesting.

Film Theory & Criticism, bolstered with Psychology and Philosophy courses, is quite the experience. Check out Slavoj Žižek: The Pervert's Guide to Cinema for a taste.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:07 PM on April 25, 2008

1. New German Cinema - Ain't no party like a Fassbinder party, yo.
2. Literary Posthumanism - Burroughs and Sterling and Alien, oh my.

at UC Santa Cruz lo, these many years ago.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:08 PM on April 25, 2008

Best answer: Well, within my major (Anthropology) but still available as an elective, I really loved Social Anthropology as well as Forensic Anthropology. Forensic stuff was SUPER cool and involved attending an autopsy, and providing 'professional' testimony in a mock trial with the local law school students. Archaeology field classes were not typically offered to non-majors at my university but that could vary and you'd have a lot of fun there too.

Outside of the major, I really enjoyed a Criminal Justice class on Law and Terrorism. This was waaay prior to 9/11 so something like that must be even more comprehensive.
posted by elendil71 at 5:11 PM on April 25, 2008

Piano! (had never played)
B&W Photography (where you actually develop the negatives and prints)
Sociology of Deviance
Psych 201: Mind and the Brain.
posted by peep at 5:20 PM on April 25, 2008

A nice way of finding the best professors is to check out the university-wide teaching awards. Sometimes the awards are done through a particular university entity, such as the Teaching Center or Center for Teaching Support (or any one of a number of things). But check out which professors have won awards in the last few years and try to enroll in their courses.
posted by ontic at 5:25 PM on April 25, 2008

Find out who the outstanding professors are at your school (outstanding in terms of their undergrad teaching, not necessarily the most famous). Take them.

For me, the two major surveys of English canonical literature were the best courses I took, and the ones that affected my appreciation for literature, art, movies, etc the most. I think about those classes nearly every day. If you haven't taken such a class, take it. For my money the very specific classes (Queer Latin American Lit from 1945-1966) are secondary and much more hit-or-miss. But take a good survey of the canon (English Poetry from Milton to Yeats; English literature from Spenser to Eliot; Classics of world literature with Homer, Dante, etc) and you will be reading the best stuff there is, hopefully with someone who knows how to teach you how to extract the marrow on your own.

Introduction to Geology was a great class, profoundly shaped my understanding of the world and physical processes that affect where humans live, what disasters happen, the questions like climate change and other public policy matters. And the bar to entry is lower than in some other hard sciences.

Find out who the best philosophy prof at your school is and take a class with them - ideally you will realize, partway through the semester, that your thinking processes in general are a little vague and muddy. The class should help you start making them more precise and careful, which is a great asset in whatever you do.

If your school has introduction to neuroscience, or a basic introduction to understanding computer science, either would be useful later on for evaluating the basic plausibility of other people's claims in those domains.

Drawing 101 is a hugely useful basic class if you have any interest at all in art. You really can go from zero skills to pretty fair in the course of the semester, it is remarkable.

I regret not taking more math/stats, and more foreign language.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:30 PM on April 25, 2008

Photography! I took it as an elective at community college and it literally changed the course of my life (I'm an actual photographer now, although I will admit that I was pretty predisposed to it but never really had the opportunity to officially learn it because everything I went to prepared me for the next thing - grade school got me to HS, HS was college prep, I got to college and said, "F this! Is accounting it? I'm good at math, but blah!" etc).

(note to accountants: I was one for a while! I liked it, but it wasn't me.)

And, while I agree that awesome teachers = awesome classes (Im still grateful to a history teacher I had first year of college), the photog teacher at CC was known as a jerk and people hated him. Looking back, I think it was people looking for an easy, BS class that they could goof off in while they studied whatever else, and he wasn't providing that. He was tough, but he really cared. I learned A LOT in that class, and it helped me big time once I got to Real Art School. I'm not saying that's what you're looking for at all, but if you hear that a certain teacher sucks, find out WHY s/he sucks, and decide if you want to take a chance.

If you've thought "yeah, I've always kinda wanted to take [whatever subject], TAKE IT. That's what I did - for me, it was "I always wanted to learn how to work in a darkroom." That opportunity alone is why I donate what I can to my CC. Granted, it's pocket change now, but when I'm a billionaire, there will be an AlisonM darkroom there! :) Worst case scenario, you pass an elective and get a few credits. Best case scenario, you truly discover something you adore.
posted by AlisonM at 5:33 PM on April 25, 2008

Chicago has a core course called "Greek Thought and Lit" that when I took it was taught by an amazing professor, and to have the same tenured professor for the duration of a yearlong freshman course is unusual nowadays. It was very Dead Poets Society, we went through just about all the major plays and philosophical works over the course of the year and forged a really close bond as a class and individually with the professor. We had this big feast at a restaurant in Greektown the night of our final class, it was just totally awesome and really special from start to finish.
posted by The Straightener at 5:33 PM on April 25, 2008

4000-level geology course: "The History of Life," Richard Bambach.

started with the formation of the solar system, day one, followed by earth's crust and first evidence of organic life (strombolites) on day two. then went chronologically through all the geological/scientific evidence pertaining to evolution up to homo sapiens. mass extinctions and asteroids played a big role. brilliant readings as well as excellently edifying slides for some of the lectures.

i haggled my way into this course as a freshman, and after taking it along with Joe Pitt's intro philosophy of science course. moved me from a geology major to a philosophy major in a semester.
posted by garfy3 at 5:37 PM on April 25, 2008

Also seconding art history intro survey, and intro to horticulture, for things that bring pleasure later.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:42 PM on April 25, 2008

I agree with all of the others who have stressed that finding a really good professor who is interested in teaching and not just research is key here. That being said, I really enjoyed my comparative religion classes that I took.

I was also lucky enough to find a "topics" class in the religious studies/ philosophy department that was taught by three different people at once. It was a class on Carl Jung's archetypes but was taught from the perspective of a practicing Jungian clinician, a professor of Buddhist studies and a doctoral candidate who was writing his dissertation as a conversation between Jung and Nietzsche. There were only nine students in the class with the three teachers. Try looking through the various topics courses in disciplines you find interesting and maybe you may get lucky.
posted by pazoozoo at 5:45 PM on April 25, 2008

History of Britain and History of American Baseball were two of my personal favorites.
posted by bigcheesegump at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2008

Art History, definitely. It's like normal history, but instead of studying the major events you study the cultural impact of those things.

It's amazing how often those classes come in handy, I can walk into any museum or gallery and know what the work is about even if I've never seen it before. When I see something interesting I usually know the historical context and why it looks like it does, whether it's a chair or a building or a painting.
posted by bradbane at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2008

Posting again to third Intro to Geology (I hadn't realized it was cool in other places too, since our curriculum was pretty idiosyncratic and shaped by the professors' research interests). Our professors were particularly into climate, and the methods they use to determine historical climate levels are really fascinating...it's like a whole new world of science you've never heard of. Also Geology people are quirky and interesting. The only problem I had with geology is that whenever I tried to find study materials online all I could ever find were websites talking about how the earth is actually 6000 years old and dinosaurs were wiped out in Noah's flood.
posted by phoenixy at 6:00 PM on April 25, 2008

The prof really is key, I had a few, one in particular, Mike Wentworth, who could read the phone book and keep you mesmerized. I took several courses with him, including 'Literature of the Road', 'Hard-Boiled Lit' and Contemporary Irish Lit. Another fun class, though as a senior seminar, not easy, was the history of political cartoons. A course in Jazz History led to an almost minor in the subject. I was very fortunate to take a few art history classes with the reclusive Anthony Janson. I could name several, but then, going back to college after 15 years in the salt mine was like a vacation for me. College is the next best thing to travel for giving you tools to savor life.
posted by dawson at 6:01 PM on April 25, 2008

Intro to Abstract Math. I only signed up because I liked the professor and The Hot Math Girl told me I should. Changed my life, and showed me the beauty of math.
posted by krakedhalo at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2008

I'm an engineer by major, but the two best classes I've taken in undergrad so far have been Intro to Women's and Gender Studies (I'm also a guy, FWIW) and Intro to Linguistics.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:33 PM on April 25, 2008

Introductory Linguistics Class. Seconding the other poster; it's a fascinating subject - how the brain learns. But I confess that I don't think I could explain Chomsky to you.

Classical Indian Literature. Great, enthusiastic professor. I ended up writing some good papers for that class.

Poetics of Film. It had nothing to do with Aristotle, but was a grad seminar on narrative structure in film. I got to watch all kinds of interesting world cinema.

But I agree with others, the professor matters almost as much, if not more, than the subject matter.
posted by brookeb at 6:34 PM on April 25, 2008

I took an honors freshman "Integrated Studies in Physical Science" class called Navigating the Universe with a brilliant Fermilab physicist who was very concerned about instilling an appreciation for logical positivism, the scientific method, and the history of physics in the general public, as to increase support for good science public policy. It was a great experience and though I know not everyone who took that class liked it, but the nerdy kids who weren't necessarily science nerds really loved it.

I also got to take Asian and Asian-American Film, which was way more fun than I expected it to be (silly me, I didn't actually realize we were going to get to watch anime and action movies as well as period drama and Korean TV).

I really loved the courses I took in my major but these were two outliers I think I would recommend.
posted by Tesseractive at 7:03 PM on April 25, 2008

Definitely take the professor, not the class subject, if you want a great experience.

My two best classes were Shearman's Michelangelo class and Stephen Jay Gould's intermediate-level Evolutionary Biology class. Those guys were awesome, amazing teachers. I would gladly have listened to either of them explain the history of dung, or any other topic.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:03 PM on April 25, 2008

Best answer: I'm guessing you won't want to take abstract algebra, but that was my actual favorite class in college. (Maybe you love math, but it has a lot of prerequisites.)

A favorite that was more on interesting/useful in real life reasoning side was a bioethics class I had to take for my "land stewardship credit" (big ag state school, go figure :) Everyone else took this totally lame conservation class, but bioethics was really interesting, sort of like a philosophy course that had a lot more real-life relevance for me as a science major. I can see with your major any type of ethics course may be very applicable in real life, and bioethics is a class that will be relevant to you as a citizen who cares about science and also someone who deals with people very personal level.
posted by sararah at 7:30 PM on April 25, 2008

All of my absolute favourites were cultural studies classes; my absolute best was Visual Culture and Communication which sounds dry on paper but was actually fantastic. We learned about the craziest, weirdest variety of things. Cultural studies in general was awesome because you learn about and pick apart stuff that you would never, ever think about normally-- for instance, one prof took us on a field trip... to the men's bathroom, to deconstruct gender in architecture.

My second favourite was a Languages and Literatures course that rotated between Italian, French and German. Each week we learned about a different aspect of each culture.

Of course, I ended up going from a Communication Studies major with a Psych minor to completely dropping university for a Photojournalism college program so all of my credits were just really expensive ways to fill up two years.
posted by riane at 7:31 PM on April 25, 2008

I loved the art classes that I took: book arts and printmaking. They were still work, but they were also a mental relief from all of my reading-intensive classes.

Also, if you can, I would highly recommend doing an independent study with your favorite professor. I did "The History of the English Language" with my very favorite prof, and it was tons of fun. I got to pick the readings, and once a week we sat down and chatted about gloriously nerdy things like etymology or language and identity. It was fabulous.

If there's a topic that a previous class has touched on and you want to learn more about, that'd be the perfect choice for an independent study.
posted by gwyn at 8:13 PM on April 25, 2008

nthing pick the prof, not the class. Mind, I had a good experience in a Linguistics class with a prof I didn't particularly like, but my favorites were the 300&400 level Lit courses taught by Chuck Nelson. A guest prof in his Chaucer class led me to a very good experience in an Arthurian lit class. (engineer at a tech university -- Lit was my escape from all that right-brain regimentation.)

Are there any history of the region classes? That was another favorite -- a prof over in the Business department taught a two quarter course on the industrial history of the rea, and he was very good at conveying his enthusiasm about the subject to students. I always wanted to take that class (everyone I talked to about it said "take it") but it was always against a required class, so I could never fit it in.
posted by jlkr at 8:25 PM on April 25, 2008

I picked up Human Geography as an elective in my first year after getting fed up with Physics. It was a class based on the Asia-Pacific with a professor who had spent half his life studying the area. The other half of the class was on urban geography and world cities, which was amazing. It impressed me so much that it's become my major. Most geography courses (should) have awesome field trips [and opportunities for overseas study] as well, which makes writing papers on the subject matter that much more fun.
posted by cholly at 8:34 PM on April 25, 2008

I had a great time in General Semantics. I wish more people would take it. It helps you to know when somebody's relieving himself on your leg and is telling you it's raining.
posted by bryon at 8:46 PM on April 25, 2008

My junior honors seminar: exploring the meaning of "freedom" through film. It combined politics, history, ethics, and philosophy with (mostly) Hollywood movies. While it was pretty awesome getting credit for watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the best part was the discussion. Two and a half hours every week of just talking. It was awesome. To me, the best part of class is the discussion, so I try to look for smaller class sizes.

My second favorite class is probably either Medieval Europe or Ancient Christianity -- both were taught by the same teacher who just stood in front of the class every day and told the stories. She was probably the first professor to really make me love history. I'd recommend some kind of religion class, but some of them can be god-awful (pun intended). In my experience, religion teachers are either super-fantastic who know how to handle sensitive material or have some kind of agenda to push ("Christianity always bad! Buddhism always better!"). So make sure you know about the teacher beforehand.

My old roommate's favorite class was her teen fiction English class. The teacher was so-so, but she absolutely loved the subject.
posted by lilac girl at 8:47 PM on April 25, 2008

Best answer: Public Speaking, also listed as Speech or Forensics. The first few weeks were borderline painful - it was a small class of 15, and everyone had to give a little speech, once a week, for ten weeks. I was shy, terrified of audiences, and oh God why did I have a scheduling clash with Interpersonal Communication? Why was PS the only non-Underwater Basketweaving class that could pull me up to full-time status?

Eventually I learnt to cope, and learnt how to be a better speaker. Not just public speaking, but ANY time that I open my mouth and speak. My um, totally, like, like, um, yeah, so, well, ah, you know, you know, like, like, they're all gone. I've never stopped singing the praises of taking PS. Fantastic stuff.
posted by Xere at 8:47 PM on April 25, 2008

Agriculture, History and Society: From Squanto to Biotechnology
Really eye opening for an engineer, and a good dose of history, for example, did you know that the indians who sat at the first thanksgiving included english speaking Squanto who had been kidnapped, enslaved in england and returned to new england and still helped the pilgrims?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:10 PM on April 25, 2008

The Anthropology of Science, with Jonathan Marks. It was a ton of reading, but all of it was fascinating.
posted by pmbuko at 9:49 PM on April 25, 2008

My most outstanding class-oriented memories involve equipment I wouldn't have access to again. Bronze Sculpture and Beginning Sailing, to be specific, but you can extrapolate to your own interests and the equipment that you'd feel lucky to get a chance to play with.
posted by nadise at 10:27 PM on April 25, 2008

Best answer: Labor History

Labor History

Labor History
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:48 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm interested in photography, but the photo class I took in college was absolute bunk. It was more of an art appreciation course, and because I didn't agree with the professor's interpretation of some the works we looked at I was forced to take the course pass/fail.

If you're looking for a generic course that could help you, I think my favorite of my "humanities" courses was Logic. Definitely take a logic course if you want to be able to think critically about... well, anything.

Inside my major, I had several favorites - propulsion systems, aerodynamics, and my senior design class. Probably the last time I'll ever build an airplane from the ground up - it's very rare nowadays to do that due to costs.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:05 PM on April 25, 2008

History. American History, and History of Technology.

Just find the courses with the best professors (the best at teaching and lecturing, who are not necessarily those best at publishing papers).

(That said, what I didn't take I wish now I had: Computer Science and Biology classes.)
posted by orthogonality at 11:05 PM on April 25, 2008

It's the professor, and not the subject, which makes the class, as a billion other people have said. For me, it would be a tie between Men, Minds, and Machines (a course in philosophy and computational linguistics) and Politics of Administrative Law. They both blew my mind open, and they were both taught by funny, relatively unpretentious geniuses. One class had barely any structure while the other ran on a railroad, but they both showed off the professor's hunger for knowledge and pleasure in communication. They were also classes which made me feel quite a bit dumb, yet slowly getting smarter.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:33 AM on April 26, 2008

Ask around for the best Psych professor then scroll through their next semester's classes to find something that looks interesting to you. (Abnormal was my favorite, followed closely by Social Psych and then Psychology of Marriage which was bizarrely fascinating.)

Or find a professor in religious studies who is fantastic.

(Bowling and also ultimate frisbee were highly entertaining electives, as well.)
posted by kirstk at 1:02 AM on April 26, 2008

I loved my Religion 101 class, as well as my Pop Culture class (though the Pop Culture class was more challenging than I expected.) Neither of these was required or beneficial for my major, but I feel like they contributed to my becoming a more well-rounded, informed person (which absolutely should be part of your college experience.)

Religion was a surprise for me, as a rebellious Baptist, I didn't think I would want to have anything to do with it, but it was so eye-opening for me to learn about the fundamentals of different religions--it gives you a whole new perspective on why people believe what they believe, and I am relieved to not feel completely ignorant when conversations shift to religions I wasn't exposed to growing up.
posted by saucy at 3:28 AM on April 26, 2008

CI Management! Our lecturer was someone who primarily works in the industry (he's the chairman of a youth arts organization and does various visual art stuff) and he knew his stuff. His classes were always very open and honest, no bullshit or academic pontification. All real-world material.

The first day of class he told us, "Last year I got some feedback telling me my class was not academic enough. That's not the point." As a very practical and experiential person when it comes to education, I fell in love with him immediately. We weren't expected to read up various theories on arts management by random scholars; instead, we were expected to examine actual arts projects and organizations and see how they are run. One assignment was to analyse an organization of our choice; the other was a group project to plan out a possible community arts project. It was EXACTLY what I was after with my degree and I would happily take it over and over if I could.

Having good faculty counts a lot - I've had classes that sounded interesting but the teaching turned me off. Sometimes you'd have a great lecturer but a mediocre tutor (like my Persuasive Writing class, all about rhetoric; the lecturer was hilarious but the tutor was meh) or vice versa.

Also, go for a more practical class if you've been doing a lot of reading and academic work. It refreshes the brain and you get to do something a bit different. Even arts classes like visual art, dance, or acting may be good. (I wish we had Forensics here!)
posted by divabat at 3:45 AM on April 26, 2008

My all-time favorite was Theater Directing class. I got to pick a scene from a play, recruit actors, stage the scene, and see the results (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the scene where Maggie torments Brick and he takes a swipe at her with his crutch). Lots of fun!

My second fave was Computer Logic. New skill, challenging, and it is a great introduction to all kinds of fields. It also taught me the importance of mapping things out visually.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:43 AM on April 26, 2008

Costume History. I'm the sort of geeky guy who doesn't care much about clothes or fashion. For me (as a theatre major) the class was a requirement. I dreaded it. Booooring!

No, it was fascinating. It was a semester-long slideshow. We looked at images from history, starting with the earliest clay pots (and the like) that showed people wearing clothes. We gradually moved closer and closer to the present, stopping in each era and going deeply into details as to why people dressed the way they did, what sort of undergarments they wore, how dress tied into class, etc.

(You know those slits people used to have in their sleeves back in "Three Musketeers" days? Do you know why those became fashionable? Because heros came back from war with their clothes in tatters -- with sword slashes through the fabric. People wanted to look brave, so purposeful slashes became a fashion statement.)

I wish I'd kept studying clothes after taking the course (and I mean to get back to it), but for about a year afterwards, I could look at any painting with people in it and date (within a decade) by looking at what people were wearing.
posted by grumblebee at 6:21 AM on April 26, 2008

Geography of Popular Music: Concepts of regional identity, spatial diffusion, culture change, regional economic growth and change as illustrated by U.S. popular music and the contemporary music industry. (Also known on various campuses as History of Music, History of Rock n Roll, etc.) Especially useful if you enjoy trivia and pop culture.

and this course is unique to my school: Natural History of South Carolina. A naturalist is a person who studies the world of nature and marvels at it. This course will bring out the naturalist in you. We will take a general look at the plants and animals found in S.C. We will also explore the myriad of connections in the natural world- the glue that holds the system together. Taught by the one and only Rudy Mancke. This class taught me to pay attention to the world around me. I loved this class and professor so much that I named my cat Rudy Mancke Jr.!
posted by kidsleepy at 8:07 AM on April 26, 2008

Three classes:
1) Intro to philosophy. I went to a Catholic school K-12, where basically one unified morality and philosophy is taught as the Truth. Taking philosophy classes in college really opened my eyes to the fact there are other, legitimate trains of thought out there. While I'm still Catholic, those classes made me realize my line of reasoning shouldn't have any inherent preference over another for two reasons- I don't think you can prove the existence of God (hence, faith) and other philosophy frameworks are a lot more sound than a theist philosophy.

2) I forget the name, but it was an environmental elective that was 100% about the teacher. We literally sat around 2 days a week discussing the environment. Like the philosophy class, it opened my eyes.

3) Human biochemistry. This was an 4000-level biochem class so you most likely can't take it, but I enjoyed it because at the end of class, we did "clinical trial studies" where the prof tied what we learned in class to real life, ie this is where you'd see hemochromatosis in a hospital and how it is treated, etc. I loved studying sciences, but one of my complaints is it often times felt like the material doesn't apply directly to real life- it just exists in a vacuum. This class turned that around and specifically showed how what we learned in class really does apply to everyday life.
posted by jmd82 at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2008

Intro to Beverages - It was a two credit course in the Hotel and Restaurant Management department about wines, beers, spirits, and (briefly) coffees and teas.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2008

Grendel's Workshop - We studied frequently adapted folktales and fairy tales, discussed and analyzed them, and then did our own versions. The professor was awesome and we had impromptu contests to scar each other with disturbing folktale variants. Oh god, oh god, why did I choose "Beowulf: The Rock Opera" ...

Intro to Astronomy.

Gamelan (Balinese Percussion Orchestra) half-credit elective, taken every semester from sophomore year onwards. Seriously, see if there are any musical performance classes available for newbies (or not, if you perform). There may be some weird-to-westerners stuff you can pick up, and it will be so much fun and will broaden your horizons. I learned a lot, made lots of friends, gained a great mentor and kept myself on an even keel.

Unsurprisingly these were all taught by some of the best professors on campus.
posted by bettafish at 9:11 AM on April 26, 2008

Prehistoric anthropology changed my life. It led me to love science and reject the family religion.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:42 AM on April 26, 2008

Rap and the Spoken word. Actually I enjoyed most of the Black Studies courses.

I wont be taking the classes for my major (theatre tech) next fall so I imagine those would be some of my favorites.
posted by saxamo at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2008

Meteorology - I needed a physical science course without a lab section, and ended up fascinated. Lighting design (for theater). An art history course on modern European painting, approx 1860-1940. Cognitive science - this was an extension course I just took last year.
posted by expialidocious at 10:57 AM on April 26, 2008

I just TAed Chinese Action Film, which was completely and utterly awesome.

As an undergrad, Korean pop culture and Aesthetics and Politics of Vision in Premodern Japan were also fantastic - without me knowing, they introduced me to complicated issues of presentation/representation, film theory & theory in general. Great profs make all the difference.
posted by Herman Hermanson at 2:29 PM on April 26, 2008

Intro to Film, Video, and TV Production. Hands on learning with video and film cameras, as well as shooting fake TV interviews on a little sound stage, was absolutely awesome. Completely changes your perspective about movies and TV. I was an English major, and so it was nice to shake it up a bit and study a different medium.

Other than that, my Shakespeare classes were all also great.
posted by andeles at 4:35 PM on April 26, 2008

-Psych of Crime
-Group Communication

I use what I learned in all of them regularly. The profs were decent but the subject matter was what made it for me.
posted by wallaby at 5:56 PM on April 26, 2008

Coming a bit late to the thread, but I wanted to reinforce the "professor matters" thing. Ask around to find out what professors are good. I found that even in my large university word spread about who was decent and who was excruciating.

As an English major, taking a short story course would have been enjoyable no matter who taught it. I was lucky enough, however, to get a reserved-for-majors spot in one of the most crowded sections of Short Story 212. Everyone -- EVERYONE -- tried to get into this class, even engineering majors and athletes. The reason for this, and the only reason, is because the professor who taught it was why the movie "Dead Poets Society" was created.

No joke. This professor was amazing. The first day, he used a stuffed bird's head as a pointer, gesturing wildly around the room, the bird's beak pointing at nothing in particular. Other days he would alternate between truly insightful commentary on the short story we were reading and bizarre ramblings on the hairiness of old people and trips to Australia. It wasn't only a class, it was a show, and we all knew it.

"Don't be funny in your writing," he said. "Humor doesn't suit the young. Don't use irony; irony doesn't suit anybody. And don't listen to those people that say you have to write what you know. They don't know what they're talking about."

He was somewhat crankier than Robin Williams but far better looking, even in his sixties. He also had a lovely Mississippi drawl and hated everything to do with "Dead Poet's Society." If someone tried alluding to the film, he'd acknowledge the comment with restrained Southern hospitality and then go back to this story about his dog and how it related to "The Yellow Wallpaper."

I wish I'd been able to take more courses with him, but timing never allowed for it. His classes were so crowded, moreover, that even with an 8:15AM class time people were always over-enrolled. Jazz Dance and a bawdy 18th century lit course were also good, but the content of the course almost always is overpowered by the personality of the professor.
posted by landedjentry at 6:03 PM on April 26, 2008

Some of my favorites:

-Public speaking was super embarrassing but useful. I am really shy and would probably rather die than get up in front of people and talk but now I'm mostly ok with it.

-Anything history, including some history of computing course I took that was really cool.

-Any economics class. I thought I would hate econ but ended up loving it and taking a whole bunch of extra courses in it.

-Intro to Piano. I learned to play the piano! And I still play it.

-Ballet. And no you usually don't have to be super skinny or wear tights if you're not a dance major.

-Anatomy and Physiology. I got a C+ in the class. Lowest grade I ever got in undergrad but loved every second of this class. It was fascinating, the professor was awesome and the class whipped my butt.

-CPR and First Aid

I liked to take classes that were just way outside what I would normally get into. I found some of the best courses from doing that.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 6:48 PM on April 26, 2008

Programming Languages was my favorite course, due to the professor and the problems he assigned. Matrix multiplication in Scheme, for instance.

I also really enjoyed English 101, again because of the prof. He did a good job of critiquing my papers, and assigned really interesting essays. In the session when we discussed "Body Rituals of the Nacirema", it quickly became clear that I was the only one who was in on the joke, sigh.

I also enjoyed Geography 101 and Linear Algebra. Once again, part of it was the professors, and part of it was that I really enjoyed the readings and assignments.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:11 PM on April 26, 2008

Religious architecture in the US. Fascinating in many ways, due to being interested in both religion and architecture. Even better were the meditations from the professor on the merits of driving on neglected roads, the value and obligations of public education, and general life lessons, all delivered with a distinctive dry wit.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 8:54 PM on April 26, 2008

Classical Mythology.
posted by monarch75 at 12:19 PM on April 27, 2008

Critical Theory of Literature. Not only did it make me a better writer and a better student of literature, but it helped me understand teachers with whom I previously had trouble...understanding our differing approaches to critical theory was hugely illuminating.
posted by desuetude at 6:36 PM on April 27, 2008

Best answer: My favorite classes in grad school have been the ones where I challenged myself to delve into subject areas I really didn't know much about and came away with a solid foundation. I regret taking some of the easy-A classes I had in undergrad, and I realize that although I love to read and write, I probably only picked the English major out of laziness. In grad school my favorite classes deal with science and law.

Do take a writing class though, to learn the nuts 'n' bolts and what not to do. No matter what field you end up in, you will do some writing. Most professional writing is awful, so a great, taut, persuasive writing sample will make you stand out in an applicant pool.
posted by mirepoix at 6:05 AM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: It all depends on the professor; I'm sure every one of the college goers here can attest to taking a class because it's description was awesome, only to find the professor a pompous ass who rambles about everything under the sun, makes you read his own books and then gives you an impossible exam, followed by a C. grrr...

My solution was to always approach class-picking in multiple ways:

1) Start with the departments you might think would be way different and cool (YMMV on what they are; for me, a science person, it was anthropology, film, classical studies, ancient history, economics, society and technology, etc.). Then go through the registrar's list and get as much info as you can (name + description).

2) See if your registrar has "experimental" or "newly added" classes, which are usually always different and often cover current topics. Probably my favorite course was a back-and-forth lecture taught simultaneously by two professors in the computer science department. It was totally marked "experimental."

3) Ask around. People on campus will always be willing to answer this kind of question; they probably know more than most of us on this post (unless we went to your school...).

4) Look at rankings for possible courses via your registrar (if they do this). I am always suspect of these numbers, but it may help sometime.

Remember: it's ALL comes down to the professor! (Case in point: my other favorite class in college was Biochemistry I--the professor had an amazingly clear style of teaching.)
posted by BenzeneChile at 12:09 PM on April 28, 2008

Sociology of Alternative Religions (soc. of cults, basically)----fascinating
posted by hulahulagirl at 8:36 PM on April 28, 2008

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