10 underrated classes Stanford students should consider

Feb. 4, 2021, 4:39 p.m.

Choosing classes is always an overwhelming endeavor. Whether you are picking how to satisfy your major requirements, starting a new minor or finishing up WAYS, picking classes is exhausting.

To help in the process, these are some “underrated classes” that students have taken and loved, ranging from small IntroSems to lectures with hundreds of students.

1. PHIL 81: Philosophy and Literature
Can literature make people more moral? This course questions the value of literature; examines philosophical puzzles about the nature of fiction and literary language; and analyzes ways in which philosophy and literature interact.
Units: 3-5
Satisfies WAYS-A-II

“Even though the class was very challenging for freshman fall, I was exposed to a lot of new philosophical ideas that encouraged me to look at art in a whole new way. For my final paper, I wrote about the movie ‘Get Out’ and how it aestheticizes anti-Black racism and prompts the viewer to adopt anti-racist attitudes.” – Robert Castaneros ’24, writer for The Grind

2. PHYSICS 61: Mechanics and Relativity
This course covers Einstein’s special theory of relativity and Newtonian mechanics and is especially fit for students who are considering majoring in physics or engineering physics or are interested in a rigorous treatment of physics.
Units: 4
Satisfies WAYS-FR and WAYS-SMA

“PHYSICS 61 is hard — but it helped me build so much community and taught me to look at the world in a whole new way. Many people might be discouraged by the difficulty — I was too, until I realized that the class was pass/fail, and I decided just to do it for the sake of learning some new material instead of stressing about a grade. That’s a decision I will never regret.” – Brian Wu ’24

3. MATH 51: Linear Algebra, Multivariable Calculus, and Modern Applications
This course provides unified coverage of linear algebra and multivariable differential calculus. The course emphasizes computations alongside an intuitive understanding of key ideas.
Units: 5
Satisfies WAYS-FR

“It’s such an interesting class but gets a bad rap. The teaching is great and so supportive.” – Ishaan Singh ’24

4. EDUC 193A: Core Peer Counseling Skills
Listen Up! introduces several skills intended to promote the development of active listening skills central to connecting and engaging with others more intentionally. Students who aspire to be more effective and intentional in communicating with others should take this course.
Units: 2, repeatable for credit

“The peer counseling course teaches you not only how to be a Bridge counselor, but also how to be a better, more empathetic person to those around you. The listening skills and structure of counseling have been invaluable to me when supporting friends in my personal life — I’m much better able to take care of my friends’ emotional wellbeing, approach solutions to personal problems and make my friends feel heard.” – Alexa Ramachandran ’22

5. POLISCI 136R: Introduction to Global Justice
This course explores the normative demands and definitions of justice that transcend the nation-state and its borders, through the lenses of political justice, economic justice, and human rights.
Units: 4
Satisfies WAYS-ER

“I like it because it forces you to confront some really tough questions that don’t exactly have the right answers, and class discussions (in attempts to ‘solve’ many of the world’s pressing issues) can get super interesting. Also, the lessons are honestly just so important and relevant.” – Isabella Andaya ’24

6. SPECLANG 179: American Sign Language
This class integrates language and culture with an emphasis on developing proficiency on functional structures, lexical items and history of ASL Socio-culturally appropriate language in formal and informal contexts.
Units: 4
Satisfies Language Requirement

“ASL is my favorite class I’ve taken so far. This is my second quarter enrolled in it and Professor Haas makes it entertaining. I feel like I’m learning a lot and it doesn’t get boring, even though it meets every day Monday through Friday.” – Kassadey Delgado ’24

7. PSYCH 70: Self and Society: Introduction to Social Psychology
This course grants students the opportunity to explore and think critically about a variety of exciting issues including: what causes us to like, love, help or hurt others; the effects of social influence and persuasion on individual thoughts, emotion, and behavior; and how the lessons of social psychology can be applied in contexts such as health, work, and relationships.
Units: 4
Satisfies WAYS-ED and WAYS-SI

“The professors for PSYCH 70 are extremely engaging. The class is perfectly designed to fit the online format and is very accommodating. The assignments are also engaging and flexible through essays, so I have been able to learn a lot without the added stress of tests.” – Deena Akras ’24

8. TAPS 21T: StoryCraft: Sexuality, Intimacy & Relationships
This course explores various perspectives on sexuality, intimacy, and relationships and dives into our own stories to discover the richness and vibrancy of this part of our lives.
Units: 2
Satisfies WAYS-CE

“Calling this class ‘life-changing’ feels like an understatement. StoryCraft enabled me to believe I had a story worth telling, that I had the power to educate and impact people just by allowing my existence to be known. Having the privilege to tell my story with incredible vulnerability in front of the entire freshman class at [New Student Orientation] is an experience I will take with me throughout my life. It was a true turning point in how I viewed my worth.” – Alexa Ramachandran ’22

9. BIO 12N: Sensory Ecology of Marine Animals
This IntroSem examines sensory systems in marine animals from both an environmental and behavioral perspective and from the point of view of neuroscience and information systems engineering.
Units: 3
Satisfies WAYS-SMA

“Sensory Ecology of Marine Animals is an incredible addition to the course load of anyone with an interest in ocean studies or biology. This IntroSem is very interest-based and allows students to pursue short, team research projects on any topic surrounding ecology. Professor Stuart Thompson is an absolute joy to work with, and he is genuinely invested in each and every project his students pursue. He provides fun anecdotes and a plethora of resources with a laid-back and flexible attitude, and he truly creates a community feeling that is a great way to transition into Stanford.” – Taylor Malina ’24

10. THINK 70: Why College? Your Education and the Good Life
This THINK course explores the history, practice, and rationales for a liberal education by putting canonical texts in conversation with more recent works. Students consider the relevance of liberal education to all areas of study, from STEM to the arts, and its relations to future careers.
Units: 4
Satisfies WAYS-A-II and THINK requirement

“I would literally take the class again with Professor Dan Edelstein if I could. The class made me question the whole college experience and education in general while drawing me into self-introspection about my own academic journey.” – Tinotenda Nyandoro ’24

 This article has been corrected to reflect that PSYCH 70 is not an IntroSem. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Hannah Basali at hbasali ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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