As a senior, I’m tying up my loose ends at Stanford, and that means finishing my last requirements. Before I started college, I heard that my junior and senior years would be about digging deeper into my major. That’s true, but I found that I’ve taken multiple intro classes in the past two quarters — “Introduction to Film Study,” “Minds and Machines” (the introductory course for Symbolic Systems) and “Introduction to Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.”
I didn’t necessarily plan my schedule this way. Rather, these courses all counted for major electives or my minor — and they happened to catch my eye.
Don’t let the term “intro” deceive you, though. I want to clear up the misconceptions that intro classes are a) easy and b) only for freshmen and sophomores.
Intro classes at Stanford are not a breeze! The ones I’ve taken have been some of my most challenging courses here. They push you to think critically and see the familiar in unfamiliar ways. “Intro to Film Study,” for instance, made me notice the editing in movies and learn the nuances of writing film analysis. My essays for that class were different from any college papers I’ve ever written.
In some cases, intro courses cover so much material that it can be hard to absorb a single topic. It makes sense to introduce everything and let students focus on topics they like in later coursework, but with the fast-paced quarter system, it can be hard to stay on top of things. My suggestion would be to stay on top of the readings as much as possible. Even if you only skim the abstract or the conclusion before class, having that prior exposure will make lectures easier to understand, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the material.
And no, intro classes are not just for freshmen and sophomores. Whether you have major requirements to finish as an upperclassman, or you just want to try something new, you won’t be out of place if you’re a junior, senior, or beyond. I’ve seen plenty of juniors and seniors in my intro classes this year. If you feel old while hearing people gush about Screw Your Roo, don’t worry — it’s not just you.
For me, taking intro classes seems quite compatible, not contradictory, with what I want out of my senior year. In my first two years of college, I was taking a bit of everything to figure out what I wanted as my major. Now that I have a major, I’m sampling different courses because that’s the beauty of college! How often can you learn about film noir, stereotype threat and neural networks in the same place?
Aside from attending lectures and reading essays, though, I’m developing skills that will last well beyond college. Intro classes have taught me critical thinking, empathetic discussion and concise writing techniques. I’ve questioned the things I used to take for granted, and as an introvert, I’ve gained confidence speaking up in discussions. I’m growing as a result of my college experience, and that’s what I’ve always known I wanted.
Contact Kristen Lee at klee23 ‘at’ stanford.edu.