I’m sure many, if not all, of you know and have heard about the ex-college at Tufts. For the one or two people who don’t: the ex-college is short for the experimental college, in which upperclassmen and professors can teach classes on anything they want. Of course, potential classes are passed through a committee and other quality measures to ensure the courses and materials are top-notch.
What I’ve only recently discovered (even though I took an ex-college class last semester) is that the ex-college is amazing. Genuinely. Look through their course listing, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll find something you like, be it anything from ‘Microfinance’ (already full— sorry!) to ‘Multiplatform Journalism for the 21st Century.’ Moreover, if you want to be taught by someone who is at the top of his or her field, the ex-college is the place to be. There’s a class called ‘Eight Hundred Words’ being taught by the former editor of the European edition of Time magazine. What’s even better is that some of the classes, like ‘Eight Hundred Words’ and others, can be counted towards majors and minors (for example, ‘Social Marketing’ counts towards the Mass Communications and Media Studies minor).
In addition, most of the ex-college classes, or at least the ones I’ve heard about, have an incredibly fulfilling final project. In the fall, I took ‘Business of Hollywood’ taught by two seniors, and the final project was to pitch a movie. At first I thought there was no way this would be possible, but of course I managed. I’m taking ‘Microfinance’ this semester, and similarly the final project is to write a five page business plan for a new microfinance institution. Right now, I would have to be out of my mind to even dream of writing a business plan for a microfinance institution. The great thing about the ex-college is that I know that by the end of the semester, I will be able to.
The point I’m trying to make is that the classes in the ex-college provide opportunities and teach skills that you won’t be able to find and learn in other classes. What they teach isn’t just superficial. They are real world skills that can be extremely valuable. They just aren’t taught in normal classes. Having said that, one of the downsides I’ve found with the ex-college is that, 1) most of the classes are at night, so be prepared to sit in front of a professor until 9 PM, 2) It takes some hard work to find classes that are above and beyond the rest (yes they’re all great, but honestly, some are naturally better than others) and, 3) they can be hard work and time consuming, but that’s a given if they’re going to teach you the skills needed to pitch a movie or write a business plan!
Anyway, if you have a light course load this semester, or if you think you want to try out something cool, I really urge you to take an ex-college class this semester. What’s better is that as a first year student, you have an incredibly long add / drop period, so you really should take advantage of it. Take an ex-college class that sounds interesting until the drop deadline, and see how you feel about it then. You most likely won’t be able to tell what the course and professor are like until a few weeks in anyway. You may just like it, and you never know you, you may just end up minoring in it. So happy learning!