Gates: Northwestern should better adjust course offerings to meet student interest


Matt Gates, Columnist

Among the many stressors that accompany the end of a quarter, registration for the next quarter’s courses is one of the most discussed by the Northwestern student body. What classes are people taking? Which professor has the best CTECs? And, of course, what classes have already filled?

The University does a great job of taking many steps to make this process run smoothly. It allows students to preregister for courses within their majors and minors, and upperclassmen nearing graduation can choose courses earlier than underclassmen to guarantee completion of graduation requirements. However, the offerings of certain courses could be better adjusted to meet student needs.

The University could benefit its students by opening more sections of certain courses in high demand. It’s not shocking to anyone that NU is known for having a “pre-professional” culture. This is probably the reason that classes for programs like the Harvey Kapnick Business Institutions Program (BIP) minor and the Integrated Marketing Communications Certificate Program (IMC) fill so quickly. Even students not pursuing these programs might want to take classes like Accounting and Business Finance to have on their resume and to learn skills that are practical in their chosen career paths. Meanwhile, subjects like psychology – one of the most popular majors at NU and appealing as a subject to explore as a personal interest or distribution requirement – are also difficult to register for. Increasing the number of sections of courses that are of particular interest, such as psychology, BIP and IMC, to students would improve the academic experiences of NU students.

Better aligning course offerings with student interest would also improve the academic experience of the student body. I have seen friends take classes they have little or no interest in because the classes they wanted were full. Because one can only preregister for two classes, students pursuing majors and minors that tend to fill up quickly and have completed distribution requirements might find themselves with little left to take. I’ve even known students who have taken classes that do not count towards any requirement because they could not get into what they wanted. Although normally I would see students taking an unrequired class as a positive experience, these students may have no interest in these courses, and only take them to fill a spot in their schedule. Students who are not interested in the course material will have a less enjoyable experience and are likely to do worse. Especially in small classes that depend on student participation, these students might contribute less because they are not passionate about the subject matter.

NU’s high four-year graduation rate and large number of students graduating with multiple concentrations shows that it does a better job than many other schools at getting students into the courses they need. NU also makes a strong effort to get students into many of the courses they want by the time the graduate. However, there is always room for improvement. Adjusting course offerings to meet student interest would benefit the student body.

Matt Gates is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a letter to the editor to [email protected].