Lauren West and Meredith McCown at LHHS 2014 Baccalaureate

Lauren West and Meredith McCown at LHHS 2014 Baccalaureate

USA Today recently published an article suggesting the top five courses all college students should take, regardless of their major. The story put these classes on their “don’t miss” list: finance/accounting/business management, communication, history/art history, sociology and computer science. In honor of 2014 Lake Highlands High School graduates, currently making their college course selections, I asked several LH grads their opinion.

“I believe any course that forces an individual to think analytically and then effectively communicate their argument or point of view is invaluable,” said Austin Busse, who played baseball at South Dakota State and now works in real estate. “I agree with these choices, but I would add a personal finance and a technical writing class to this list. Technical writing teaches how to construct resumes and professional letters and emails.”

Lindsay Holland agrees that a personal finance class is needed.

“I’m not sure that such a class exists at most colleges,” said Lindsay, who graduated from the University of Missouri and now works for Junior Achievement of Dallas. “If not, a seminar or lecture on the subject. It is so important to understand budgeting, savings and risk management. This really should be taught before college – and is one of the pillars of Junior Achievement.”

“I think an entrepreneurship class would benefit everyone,” added Kelly Tegt, who graduated from Texas A&M and teaches at Wallace Elementary. “Even though not everyone will own their own business, around 60% of new jobs are from small businesses, and it would be helpful to have a better understanding of how they operate.”

“I would add a foreign language course,” said Brooke Shunatona, another Mizzou grad who now writes for Cosmopolitan magazine. “I took Spanish all through high school and college, and I think that’s stuck with me more than most things I’ve learned. There’s really nothing more useful than knowing how to communicate with different kinds of people.”

“I think computer science should be higher considering how interactive our lives are now,” said Craig Lauck, a UT grad now working in the financial services industry. “I am noticing that young professionals with computer science backgrounds are able to be more sticky in any workplace and it even opens the door for those who are entrepreneurial.”

“I would recommend a Law and Ethics class,” said Nena Rubin, who graduated from UT and now works in sports marketing. “In the public relations and advertising world, it is important to know not only what is legal by definition, but also what might cross ethical boundaries. I recall discussions we had in that class often.”

“I would also add a writing class,” said Nena. “I think having strong writing skills is a major asset in any industry. I am constantly surprised at my peers’ inability to write with correct grammar, punctuation and sentence structure.”

Mary Margaret Johnson, now a UT junior writing for the school newspaper, the Daily Texan, is in the trenches.

“Because my major is journalism with a minor in business, I am required to take a lot of the classes that are listed in the article. I’ve been told that employers think it is an added benefit for journalism majors to also have a major or minor in computer science, because so much of the media is online nowadays.”

Carly Kaplan, a student at Emerson College in Boston, has a different outlook.

“Ultimately, it should be up to the student if they want to invest their time (and money) in those subjects,” said Carly. Junior high and high school were the years for standardized curriculum, she stressed. “Upon arrival in college, we can spend time on the classes that cater specifically to our interests and future fields.”

“I would just recommend that students actively look to take courses in subject areas they are passionate about,” agreed Harrison Pask, a Stanford grad headed to the University of Georgia for law school. “I took a few sports classes and a cognitive neuroscience class that focused on the human mind.”

And not all instruction has to come from the classroom.

“While nothing beats learning in a college setting,” reminded Geoff Dunham, “we luckily live in a time where most of this knowledge is accessible with a simple Google search. Education can continue through self-study.” Geoff played football at Yale and now works for a private equity firm in Dallas.

“Every student should sign up for a class in a subject you love, a subject you hate, and a subject you never thought about,” said Will Pittman, recent Aggie grad working for a law firm. “The subject you are passionate about will draw you into the class and will be a nice break during a tough week. It will make studying easier and leave you constantly wanting to know more.”

“Everyone has a subject they hate,” he continued. “Maybe you don’t see its usefulness or you never seem to do well. You need to realize that in life, especially in the workplace, there are going to be tasks and projects you aren’t interested in doing, yet you still have to give your full effort to do it. Treat those classes the same way, and you will learn the valuable skill of producing great work even when you aren’t interested.”

“College might be the only time in your life that a plethora of knowledge, opportunity and just plain fun is placed at your feet,” continued Will. “Choose a few classes that you never thought about taking.”

“Employers want to know that you made an effort to develop, to seek your interests, to go for things even when you knew that it wouldn’t go your way, to pursue opportunities without knowing exactly where they would land you, and to excel both in and out of the classroom.”

Now where can I post this where my kids will read it?