Choosing Concentration Areas
A Liberal Arts degree opens the door to all sorts of employment opportunities, and you may like the freedom the broad range of careers offers. Now, though, it’s time to think about exactly what you are going to study for the LAR degree.
A few points to keep in mind as you ponder:
- You will choose two concentrations – one in the Humanities and the other in the Social Sciences.
- You will complete a minimum of 15 credits in each concentration area, plus you will take two core LAR courses: Degree total = 36 credits.
- You will want to choose your concentrations carefully. With this major, there is little reason to focus on topics that are of no interest to you.
- You will want to consider how the two concentrations might match to create a “larger” picture for your studies and enhance your career plans. For example, concentrating in Political Science and English (writing option) would be a step towards a career in politics, journalism, speechwriting, and so on. If you have no career plans, you’ll find that matching your concentrations will still make sense in regards to your personal interests.
Above all, choosing your concentrations areas should be a thoughtful process. Here’s some advice:
How to choose:
- Carefully think about all the disciplines in both areas: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Research the required courses and electives in each field using the course catalog or links we’ve provided to a few of the department websites (not all departments maintain a website). Read the course blurbs. Do you get a sense of where your interests lie?
- Be sure you are clear about any discipline-related pre-requisites that you will be responsible for fulfilling before you take courses required for the LAR major in this concentration area.
- Imagine yourself taking the required and elective courses – in your mind’s eye, are you enjoying building your knowledge in them?
- Remember that different academic disciplines carry different methods of research and thought. Can you determine which ones “think” in a way that’s comfortable for you?
- Spend time in the bookstore looking at textbooks assigned for some of the classes.
- Talk to your advisor or the Director.
- Talk to professors teaching in the fields that interest you. Ask to look at syllabi.
- Remember that hearsay about professors and courses may lead you astray – or be right on! Ask peers, but analyze their responses for yourself.
- You may find that the choice of one concentration is automatic. Think about a good match, then, for the second concentration. Do some brainstorming – play with the options in your mind.
- Take your time.
How not to choose:
Although students have sometimes been successful with these strategies, for the most part, these techniques may not work well:
- Testing classes. Several problems here: 1) You may be paying for a test class that isn’t for you – and you might have figured that out with research. 2) Lower-level classes do not always provide a true indication of the major’s focus. 3) Unless you position the class to fulfill another type of requirement (B.A. or GenEd), you may end up with a class that has not advanced your degree. Tip: Do your research in other ways (see above).
- Ignoring your own individuality. Pursuing a degree that a close friend shares or a family member wants for you means that you are neglecting the personal experiences that make you an individual. You may be close to another person, but that doesn’t mean that your passions are the same. Tip: Ask yourself this: If you could study anything in the world, what would it be?
- Choosing a concentration because the first class(es) is conveniently scheduled. Tip: Claim your education – why would your schedule be more important than your mind?
- Pressuring yourself to make the one and only correct choice of a concentration (well, two actually). Will your life be ruined if you make the “wrong” choice? Absolutely not. The LAR degree is flexible - it’s meant to enhance your understanding of the world and your critical thinking abilities, two of the primary traits employers are looking for! You can always talk to your advisor about changing concentrations. Tip: Relax! And enjoy having control over your own education.