Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Why Should I Take Classes Outside of My Expected Major?

Main content start

There are many reasons to take classes outside of your expected major: to explore other potential paths, to draw insight from exploring a topic or subject from multiple angles, to acquire multiple competencies that can help you adapt to new challenges throughout a lifetime of learning.

Exploring Other Majors

Many Stanford students enter the university with an idea of what they want to major in - and many do not.  But you'd be surprised how many times students change their minds, even when they arrive at Stanford with a clear idea of their academic direction!  It's not uncommon to begin on a certain intellectual path, only to discover that maybe it's not for you after all.  Taking classes outside your expected major helps you make sure that this is the major you actually want to pursue.  And the process of switching majors can feel much easier and less stressful if you've already taken a few classes in your new field. 

Understanding a Topic from Multiple Angles

If you're passionate about a particular topic, we strongly encourage you to deepen your knowledge by exploring it from multiple perspectives.  For example, are you interested in artificial intelligence?  You could of course study this topic through classes in Computer Science.  But it may also be important to get a better understanding of how AI interacts with our society by taking classes in Anthropology, Communication, Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, Science Technology & Society, and so forth.  Gaining this broader perspective can help you become a better critical thinker, a more ethical creator, and an engaged, well-informed citizen.

Owning Your Education

Perhaps the most important reason to take classes outside of your major, however, is that exploration is the means by which you make your education your own. More than anything else these choices -- how you acquire disciplinary breadth, how you decide to challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone, which independent avenues of inquiry you choose to pursue -- make your academic career uniquely yours and distinguish getting an education from merely going to school.

See Also

Return to the Advising Student Handbook