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Class of 2023: Welcome to college! You’re going to take over 60 classes throughout your years at Columbia and Barnard. Apart from the required Core and Foundation classes, the rest is pretty much up to your choice. You may not know what classes to pick immediately, but we’ve got you covered. Here’s our list of some interesting intro-level lectures you may want to try out your first semester!

Principles of Economics (with Sunil Gulati)

During your time at Columbia, even if you aren’t an economics major, you will probably hear about Sunil Gulati and his Principles of Economics class. Somehow, he’s found a way to turn an 8:40 a.m. intro-level economics class into a course that simultaneously challenges and entertains you. You’re going to learn a lot in this class, but you will also enjoy every single lecture. This course covers everything from basic supply and demand to international foreign exchange markets, and he cold-calls students to answer questions in class, so be prepared to do your readings (especially if you want to do well on the pop quizzes)!

All the hype aside, Principles of Economics with Gulati will challenge you, but you will gain a lot of practical knowledge by taking the course. And, if you have plans to take higher-level economics courses, taking Principles will prepare you well.

Introduction to American Politics (with Michael Miller)

Introduction to American Politics with Michael Miller is another 8:40 a.m. lecture, but it offers an interesting, comprehensive look at American politics. Miller definitely knows his stuff—this past fall, he was part of the Fox News Election Decision Team making the calls for the 2018 Midterm Elections. And, for 10 minutes at the beginning of each class, he allows students to directly ask him his thoughts on any question—even if it doesn’t relate to politics at all!

Though the class covers a wide breadth of material, it offers an interactive experience to synthesize its core concepts. In the discussion sections, students simulate congressional hearings and write memos outlining the party position on issues. And, for one day in the lecture hall, the entire class comes together to simulate the House of Representatives, where upon two bills are debated and voted upon.

If you’re remotely into American politics, or are just looking for a cool class to take, Intro to American Politics is for you!

The Social World (with Teresa Sharpe)

Interested in learning more about our contemporary society? The Social World with Teresa Sharpe can help with that. This class offers a great look into many issues of our time, including gender, power dynamics, discrimination, and other aspects of culture. This class is great, not just for prospective sociology majors, but also for anyone who is interested in the sociological forces that shape how people interact with one another.

The class is divided into four main sections: race, gender, class, and their intersectionality. Though it is a large lecture, Sharpe actively engages with the students and encourages them to share their experiences and understanding regarding the course information. This course is pretty great, but there’s almost always a waitlist, so make sure to sign up as soon as possible if you are interested!

Galaxies and Cosmology (with Mary Putman) or Life in the Universe (with Laura Kay)

If you’re in Columbia College, you’re probably going to gain a very brief introduction to astrophysics in your Frontiers of Science class. If you’re not, or you really want to take some interesting science courses to knock out those science requirements, consider Galaxies and Cosmology or Life in the Universe! Both courses offer an interesting look into the field of astronomy, and both don’t require any knowledge of advanced mathematics.

If you want to explore the stars or ponder over the possibility of extraterrestrial life, then these courses are right for you.

Intro to Computer Science and Programming in Java (with Paul Blaer)

Are you into STEM but don’t know what field you want to go into? Consider taking this introductory computer science course with professor Paul Blaer that focuses exclusively on Java. You don’t need any prior experience with coding to join this class. And, by the end of it, you’re going to be able to claim significant proficiency on one of the most used programming languages!

This course is a lot of work, and you will need to devote a significant amount of time. However, if you’re planning on going into computer science or just want to gain some sort of programming efficiency, this class is a must for you.

Ancient Greek History, 800-146 BC (with Richard Billows)

Interested in the historical background of the Iliad and the Odyssey? Or, are you just interested in Greek history in general? Then, you should check out this 1000-level ancient Greek history course, which covers Greek history from its early stages through the Hellenistic era and all the way until the Roman invasion.

The course describes itself as examining the political and cultural elements of this period in time, so if you’re into that then this course may pique your interest. Also, if you’re aspiring toward a history major or concentration, this course can be used to fulfill some of the requirements.


Hope this guide helped introduce some of the more interesting classes our institution has to offer to you! If you don’t see a class that’s particularly interesting to you this semester, know that there are dozens of new classes that come each semester—so just be patient!

Staff Writer Abhishek Hariharan can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

Classes Academics First-year Intro-level Major
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