This is Part IX of my Student Issue Essay Analysis series. I’ll be posting a prompt our Premium students have responded to over at the Magoosh product (under real exam conditions) and giving my analysis of the essay. If you want, have a look at the prompt first and try your hand at the essay, and see how yours stacks up.
Check out my past commentary:
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part I
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part II
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part III
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part IV
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part V
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part VI
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part VII
- Student Issue Essay Analysis Part VIII
Universities should require students to take courses only within those fields they are interested in studying.
Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.
Attending university is a period of self-discovery and enrichment – both academically and socially – for most students. Although students may change their intended career paths and waver between majors during this time, universities should encourage students to take courses in the fields of study that students choose themselves. By allowing students to take the courses they wish to take, students will be able to avoid low grades, hone in on the fields they are most interested in, and help indecisive students search for their best career paths.
Often times, the requirements that a university places on its students include a wide range of courses that are not necessarily essential to a student’s learning or intended career. Although schools intend to help students grasp a general understanding of all subjects, such general requirements may actually hinder students from achieving academic success by lowering their GPAs. If a student knows she is particularly interested and strong in literature, a required course in mathematics or the sciences may actually adversely impact her academic plans. The student would be subject to taking a class in a course she is weak in and might harm her chances of getting into a competitive literature program due to her low overall grades. If the student were allowed to take only the courses she chose, she would be able to pick courses she know she can perform her best in to reflect the true nature of her knowledge.
In addition to avoiding unnecessarily lower grades due to difficult courses, students would be able to focus on the fields in which they are interested in and will continue to pursue into the future. Some students attend university with a very specific plan in mind. For example, a student who desires to pursue a profession in electrical engineering will specifically choose to attend a university that has a strong engineering program. For these students, the university should allow such students to choose their own coursework. By avoiding general requirements enforced by the school, students can hone in on developing their particular skills and save time and money in the end. If an engineering student was required to take multiple courses in the humanities and arts, such coursework would retract from the student’s overall academic and career plans.
Although some students may have their career paths blueprinted in mind before entering university, most students will use their time in college to discover what careers best fit their skills. For undecided students, the university should require the students to take courses in fields that they choose, based on initial interests and simply out of curiosity. Even indecisive students can find the most fitting career paths by exploring fields of interest. If the students were forced to take basic classes to fill university credits, they would not be able to enjoy their coursework and find a field that can be translated into a future profession. Since university is indeed a time of experience and discovery, students may perform poorly in some classes and excel in others. This process of allowing students to choose their own courses would allow them to naturally find their career paths without the pressure and stress associated with pursuing a career that one does not enjoy.
As students enjoy their time in school by taking the courses they excel in and actually have an interest in, the students will be more inclined to give back to the university in the future. If students have favorable memories of their time in college, they may be more inclined to donate or pay tribute to their alma mater schools. Students who are forced to take classes that they do not enjoy and receive low grades in are less likely to hold their respective schools in high esteem. Thus, after graduation, students will not be inclined to contribute to the school in the future. If the university gives students a relatively stress-free and effective academic experience by allowing students to choose their own courses, the university can benefit from the future contributions of their loyal students.
Universities will find it within their best interest to require students to take courses only within the fields that students choose for themselves. The students will be able to have higher grades, focus on their careers, or discover new careers along the way.
This is a strong, well-organized essay that effectively argues a position: Students should be free to choose their own courses, and not be required to take predetermined courses.
The essay addresses the instructions, instead of glossing over them—or totally ignoring them altogether, as some students are wont to do. Notice the exact wording in the instructions:
“consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.” The final body paragraph discusses the positive consequences of allowing students to choose their own courses: students will be happy and successful, and thus more likely to give back in the future.
What prevents this essay from getting the highest score of a‘6’ is that it only looks at the positive consequences—the university is helped out by happy students who give back in the future. To me this is all too one-sided. Had the essay shown that there may be some downside to not having any required curriculum—but then addressing that downside and showing how it holds true only in some instances—then this essay would have had the nuanced analysis worthy of a ‘6’.
As it stands, this essay is a well-reasoned and thorough (notice the length) piece of writing. Thus it warrants a ‘5.5.’
A note about essay grading
While I’d love to grade everyone’s practice essays, that’s just simply not possible. Unfortunately I won’t be able to grade new essays, as students’ essays have already been chosen in advance. Instead, if you’re wondering how to get feedback on getting your practice AWA essays graded, check out this page:
If you have any questions about my analysis, let me know in the comments below!