Meena Pannirselvam

When my friend asked me, “Why are you taking descriptive astronomy?” I had no clue how to reply.

Like many students, I compare my schedule to my friends’ at the beginning of a new semester. There’s always a small rivalry over who has the hardest workload and most intriguing classes. However, when asked about this particular elective, I didn’t have a reasonable response.

Astronomy isn’t a required course for me. Additionally, there were plenty of classes available that were more relevant toward my major. Yet, at that moment, I just thought astronomy might be a fun subject to take.

This brings up an age old question: Are specific job qualifications or a variety of experiences important? Students should possess skill sets from different areas of study, meaning they need to immerse themselves in a well-rounded education. Some of the benefits of a well-rounded education are the ability to think creatively, developing more self-control and possess higher cognitive abilities. In order to have a holistic education, electives must be considered as important as core subjects because they allow students to pursue their interests, keep their semester interesting and complement their core subjects.

Pursuing electives allows students to explore interests beyond their field of study. For instance, a math major interested in taking pictures could take a photography course, which would allow said student to fulfill his or her interest while learning proper technique. Moreover, when students take courses that they are interested in, studying doesn’t feel like a burden. In fact, studying becomes more enjoyable and less stressful, which improves one’s grade point average.

Registering for electives also keeps one’s semester interesting. Rather than being overwhelmed with tests and studying all the time, electives lessen the study burden of the student. Personally, I found this really helpful when taking astronomy. Although I had tests to study for, part of my grade required me to write reports based on planetarium shows, which helped me learn something new in the process of getting credit. In addition, because I was looking forward to learning what was on the other side of the universe, I was less concerned with my workload. It’s all about stepping outside the academic box and getting a breath of fresh air.

Electives don’t have to be completely opposite of one’s major. In fact, students can take electives to complement their core strengths. For example, a fine arts major might consider taking an intro-level business class to develop soft skills and deepen their knowledge on how business works within the art industry. This practice is great for students in fields that require selling goods or services and may even influence the students’ career path.

I view my astronomy course as well as other electives just as important as the core subjects. They have helped me satisfy my curiosity about a subject, develop skills I want to have and increase my knowledge in a specialized field.

Meena Pannirselvam is a junior finance major. Reach her at or @DNopinion.

This piece was originally published in the August 2018 edition of The DN.