Approximately 20.4 million students headed off to college campuses in the United States last year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And of those 20.4 million, it’s a good bet that, come course selection morning, about 20.3 million weighed just how fun a class in calculus or Renaissance poetry would actually be. Yes, it’s no secret that some college courses can be rote and—dare we say—total snoozers. But the flip side is also true!
Digging through the curriculum guides of American universities will reveal a treasure trove of fun, exciting, downright ridiculous-sounding courses. In other words: If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a degree in Yeti Hunting, or Tree Climbing, or Lady Gaga (we’re serious), or Zeitgeist Science Fiction Television Series (Westworld and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, take note), now’s your chance. Schools around the country—from Cornell to Emerson to the University of South Carolina—offer up these crazy curriculum. Seriously: each and every one of these actually exists. Don’t believe us? Read on, and see for yourself. And for more insight on what really goes on behind the scenes at your alma mater, discover these 20 Secrets Your College Professor Won’t Tell You.
Your favorite pastime as a child can now earn you college credit—and at an Ivy League school, no less. At Cornell University, students can take a one-credit class in Tree Climbing which will “teach you how to get up into the canopy of any tree, to move around, even to climb from one tree to another without touching the ground.” And for more fun ways to get in your daily burn, learn the 30 Ways to Get Six-Pack Abs.
At yet another Ivy League school, students can explore the art of getting ready in the morning, courtesy of a course called “Getting Dressed.” This freshman seminar at Princeton University, taught by scholar and author Jenna Weissman Joselit, examines how what we wear—and why we wear it—shapes who we are, and vice versa. And when you want to streamline your own wardrobe, learn the 40 Best Tips For Dressing Well In Your 40s.
Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame
Little Monsters will fall hard for the University of South Carolina’s strange ode to Mother Monster herself, a course dubbed “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.” After becoming enthralled with the singer and artist after seeing her on television, sociology professor Mathieu Deflem devised the course, explaining to The New York Times, “The central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga.” And for more surprising info on your favorite stars, check out these 50 Crazy Celebrity Facts You Won’t Believe Are True.
South Park and Contemporary Social Issues
While you may think of South Park as little more than a humorous, albeit vulgar, distraction from your day-to-day life, some scholars see it differently. According to two professors at McDaniel College in Maryland, the show is worth some serious study. “Often controversial itself, South Park uses humor to explore issues such as immigration, gay marriage, terrorism, and hundreds more,” according to professors Dr. Josh Baron and Dr. Sara Raley, who co-teach the course.
How to Watch Television
You probably think you know how to watch TV pretty well by this point: put on comfy pants, plant yourself on the couch, and zone out. However, undergrads at Montclair State University can fine-tune this art with the school’s How to Watch Television class, the aim of which is “for students to critically evaluate the role of television in their lives as well as in the life of the culture.” And when it comes time to plop on the couch for hours, you could do worse than powering through the 30 Funniest Sitcoms of All Time.
Can’t get enough of HBO’s science fiction hit Westworld? You’re in good company. At Bennington College in Vermont, you can take a deep dive into the show with professor J. Vanessa Lyon, PhD. In the course, students explore everything from cyborgs to TV westerns, earning two credits along the way. And to boost your own sci-fi knowledge, bone up on the 20 Long-Predicted Technologies That Are Never Going to Happen.
The Art of Walking
Want some incentive to get moving? Sign up for The Art of Walking at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. While the course touches on the work of everyone from Heidegger to Kant, it’s also, more specifically, just a really long walk, with participants walking up to 25 miles at a stretch.
The Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is more than just a great show: studying it is also a way to earn college credit at the University of Virginia. Fortunately, Game of Thrones purists will also get to explore the George R. R. Martin books on which the series is based, comparing and contrasting the worlds created in print and on screen. And for more on Westeros, take a peek Inside the World’s First Game of Thrones-Themed Hotel.
Do you believe the truth is out there? Are you certain you spotted a Bigfoot print? If that sounds like you, you might just love the Cryptozoology class at Oberlin Experimental College in Ohio. This one-credit class, devoted to the study of cryptids, from the chupacabra to the Loch Ness Monster, is undeniably weird, but sounds a whole lot more fun than your average college seminar. And for more information on other species, discover these 40 Amazing Animal Facts.
The Physics of Star Trek
If you’re ever wondered whether or not the USS Enterprise would have actually been capable of flight, Santa Clara University might be the school for you. At this California university, students can study the physics that might enable their favorite intergalactic ships to fly. And to discover what sci-fi predictions you can expect to come true, This Is What Life Could Look Like 100 Years From Now.
While it’s since been taken out of the course catalog, students at the University of Wisconsin—Madison once had the great privilege of taking a course in Elvish, the fictional language spoken by elves in J. R. R. Tolkien’s seminal Lord of the Rings series.
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History of Surfing
Surfing is: a great workout, a cool skill to show off to your friends, and, if you’re a student at the University of California—Santa Barbara, an academic subject worthy of study. In addition to teaching the history of the medium, students in this course will also learn about the issues facing coastal communities, and how surfing has influenced cultures around the world.
The American Vacation
If you are so good at vacationing you could practically go pro, the University of Iowa’s course on the subject might just be for you. While most of us think of vacations as a way to have fun with friends are family, the course description cautions, “Vacations are more serious events than you might think.”
The Amazing World of Bubbles
Combines a little glycerin, some air, and a plastic wand, and what do you get? A class at Caltech, apparently. Exploring bubbles in their many forms, from those that pose danger to engines to those that aid in medical procedures, this course is nothing short of an ebulliophobic’s nightmare.
Demystifying the Hipster
Is it the cold brew coursing through their veins, the circulation-stifling effects of a pair of skinny jeans, or just an overinflated sense of self-worth that makes your average hipster tick? At Tufts Experimental College, students can take a deep dive into the mind of these modern-day bohemians by signing up for the aptly-titled “Demystifying the Hipster” course.
California Here We Come: The O.C. & Self-Aware Culture of 21st Century America
While many of us were obsessed with Mischa Barton’s beachy waves and the relationship drama between Summer and Seth, The O.C. hardly seemed worthy of academic study—until Duke University made the case otherwise, that is. For a period of time, the prestigious school allowed students to study the culture surrounding the hit show and the “California exceptionalism” it exemplified.
Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse—Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior
If you’ve ever wanted to know if you would make it out alive in a zombie apocalypse, Michigan State University has the one course that can give you a definitive answer. Better yet, since the class is offered entirely online, you can study in the privacy of your own room, even further reducing your chances of becoming an undead being’s next meal.
Deconstructing TV’s Buffy
For those who are still binge-watching Buffy in their free time, Boston’s Emerson College has just the course for you. “Deconstructing TV’s Buffy,” a four-credit seminar, takes a deep dive into this supernatural Joss Whedon hit, allowing students to explore everything form the show’s mythology to the countless ways the show’s characters have been adapted into everything from comics to fan fiction.
Maple Syrup: The Real Thing
Have you been suffering the indignity of being offered fake maple syrup tine and time again? Well, no longer, thanks to this unique course offered at Alfred University. While students do get to tap maple trees in the class, the course also explores everything from local maple sugaring operations to environmental science along the way. And for more sweet foodie fun, discover The 50 Best Foods for Your Brain.
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