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Class of 2024: Welcome to college! You’re going to take over 60 classes throughout your years at Columbia and Barnard. Apart from the required Core or Foundation classes, the rest is pretty much up to you. 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 that 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. This course covers everything from basic supply and demand to international foreign exchange markets. 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 of 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 this class will prepare you well.

Introduction to American Politics (with Michael Miller)

Introduction to American Politics with Michael Miller is a 10:10 a.m. lecture, and it offers an interesting, comprehensive look at American politics. Miller definitely knows his stuff, he was even 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, in which two bills are debated and voted upon.

If you’re even 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, including gender inequality, power dynamics, and discrimination. 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 amazing, but there’s almost always a waitlist, so make sure to sign up as soon as possible if you are interested!

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 Life in the Universe! This course offers an interesting look into the field of astronomy and doesn’t require any knowledge of advanced mathematics.

If you want to explore the stars or ponder over the possibility of extraterrestrial life, then this course is 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 in 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 to it. However, if you’re planning on going into computer science or just want to gain a new skill in programming, 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? If so, 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. Also, if you’re aspiring toward a history major or concentration, this course can be used to fulfill some of the requirements.


Hopefully, this guide helped introduce some of the more interesting classes our institution has to offer! 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!

Classes Academics First-year Intro-level Major
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