I do not remember much about my freshman University Perspectives class. I have hazy memories of playing fishbowl and a few other horror-inducing group activities. There was also a scavenger hunt for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me. What I do remember is that I learned very little of value in that class. Through no fault of the (really quite wonderful) instructor, I came to the conclusion that University Perspectives is a mostly pointless class that should be replaced, or at least restructured, with something more useful. Although not all students are required to take this class, the course requires substantial resources from the school and valuable time from many students.
College students are faced with a variety of problems, many of which could be solved with a little instruction. University Perspectives should be revamped to truly help students address the challenges of their new lifestyle. As it stands, there are no real requirements for what is taught in a Perspectives class. The curriculum is nearly entirely up to the discretion of the instructor.
The goals of the course as stated by the Office for Faculty Development and Enhancement are as vague as a politician during a debate. The class is supposed to, “develop an understanding of civic engagement,” as well as help students “create plans and implement them.” The list continues in this vein. However, none of these address the real issues students face during their time at college.
Nearly 16% of college students have been diagnosed or treated for anxiety, and nearly 60% experience anxiety described as overwhelming. This is an issue that can be addressed to some extent in Perspectives classes. A counselor or psychologist could come lecture for several sessions and discuss the causes of anxiety and demonstrate methods of coping, such as meditation techniques. This method has been proven to reduce stress at the neural level, according to Psychology Today. Even a basic understanding of coping mechanisms and managing stress could immensely help freshmen struggling through their first ever finals week.
Additionally, some students may be filing taxes for the first time during their college careers. There is often vital information about the tax laws surrounding scholarships that many students do not know, and that deeply impacts them when they file their taxes. I found this out the hard way last April when it came to light that I owed the IRS a sizable chunk of my scholarship. This is information that students should know right off the bat. Some form of education about how to file taxes and what to expect in terms of scholarships could have saved me a great deal of money and frustration and could still help future students.
At the very least, these classes should teach students how to put together a resume and appropriate cover letter, which is not always required. It would be even more useful if the curriculum provided guidance on how to alter a resume and cover letter depending on the job in question. For my first resume in college, I followed an online template, and that only went so far. As one of the most basic necessities for the professional world, students should learn this early on.
The list of topics that should be addressed goes on. Many of these issues may very well be addressed in some classes, but because the curriculum is not standardized, there is no guarantee that students will learn this information. If the UofA insists on students taking some form of introductory course, it should at least be useful.