The Core Points of the Core Curriculum

Katrina

Picture me, senior year of high school, in the throes of submitting my ED1 application to NYU. Upon doing some research into the school of my dreams, I discovered that NYU has a core curriculum. Now, let me give you some background on the situation. I planned on three minors, a major, and full year of studying away, but the core curriculum completely threw me off. I had big plans for my time at NYU. I wanted to ensure I wouldn’t get to senior year without taking all the classes I needed to graduate. I’m not going to die at this school in constant search of classes to fulfill requirements, I thought.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! You’re probably yelling “Calm down!” at your computer screen as you read this. Or you might even be thinking “This chick is certifiably insane and way too dramatic.” But in reality, thinking about all the obligations of college academics and the new responsibility to plan them all can be really scary. So let’s take a step back and talk about how to balance your requirements and what NYU’s core curriculum is really like.

Here at NYU our core curriculum consists of four main pillars: foundations of scientific inquiry, foundations of contemporary culture, expository writing, and foreign language.

The specific requirements of the core differ depending on the school within NYU. For example, Tisch doesn’t have a math requirement, while the College of Arts and Science (CAS) does. The specific requirements and number of them also varies depending on the school. In CAS there are 9 required core classes, in addition to completing up to an intermediate level of a foreign language. But in other schools that number may differ. Regardless of school at NYU, over a student’s four years here, they all must complete courses that fulfill their core requirements.

Okay, back up. Just like little seventeen-year-old me, you might be thinking: I don’t want NYU to tell me what classes I have to take. But that is way oversimplifying the core. Here are some ways that NYU’s core curriculum rocks (my socks off):

Our core is not cut and dry

There are many, many classes you can take to complete a requirement, so you can find one that you’re interested in. Instead of taking a math class I know I wouldn’t like (I failed calculus in high school), I took a statistics class in the linguistics department to fulfill my math requirement. You can really tailor the core to you. Which brings me to my next point…

You can kill two birds with one stone

If a class fulfills a major or minor requirement and a core one, it can count for both. That statistics of linguistics class I mentioned will go towards both my major and the core. So really, what seems like so many requirements isn’t too bad when you think of the overlap. I think most importantly, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes you take classes you wouldn’t otherwise take.

Last semester I took a class on Renaissance Italy to fulfill one of my foundations of contemporary culture requirements. I was dreading it. I was sure I was going to hate it, but then, SURPRISE! I didn’t! I loved it! It actually became one of my favorite classes. If it weren’t for the core, I never would have taken that course, and I’d just be taking language classes all the day.

So now that you know why the core is a great, not-so-scary thing, you’re probably thinking: Yeah, the core might be fab, but that’s still so much stuff I have to balance as a wee little NYU undergrad. And you’re right, it can feel like a lot. But never fear! As a real life NYU student I’m going to tell you all the tips and tricks I’ve learned on how to manage all your requirements.

Planning is key

If you budget out your major, minor, and core classes, nothing can sneak up on you. As someone who doesn’t have a natural knack for organization, this was hard for me. But it’s a skill you’ll develop over time, and your advisor will help you to make sure that you are on track for all of your core requirements. Here’s a funky sheet I made to help me figure out when I would be taking what.

four year academic planner

Your advisor is your friend

Speaking of your advisor… rely on them! Their job is to help you with any academic need you might have, and they know the ins and outs of your programs requirements like no one else. If you’re offered admission, you’re going to receive your academic advisor in the spring before you even get to NYU. They are really there every step of the way, and as you get further into your time here, you’ll only get more and more advisors.

Prioritize topic over time slot

Make sure the core classes you’re taking are ones that you’re interested in. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give. Don’t just pick classes because the time fits into your schedule or because you read that the professor is an easy grader. If you don’t find classes that work with your interests, you’ll end up resenting the core curriculum. There are so many options available for each requirement. It just doesn’t make sense to take classes that don’t interest you.

And most importantly, relax

Thinking about everything you need to do is Stressful with a capital S. But all these requirements are less scary than you probably think. And don’t worry about not taking a core class one semester — you can the next!

Being a college student means having a lot of responsibility placed on your own two shoulders. Like anything else, there’s a learning curve. If you feel like you’re swimming in major, minor, and core requirements your first year, it’s okay. So is everyone else. The skills you need to manage and to plan ahead will come with time and experience. In the meantime, just revel in the fact that NYU has so much to offer their students. There are hundreds of classes to choose from, and so much cool stuff to learn. So whether you’re and just discovering the core curriculum or worrying about how to get all those requirements done, don’t worry. NYU has your back!