Most Frequently Taken College Courses


While U.S. Department of Education data provide a detailed picture of the number of undergraduate students majoring in various humanities fields, information regarding humanities course-taking—by humanities majors and nonmajors—is more elusive. Such data are not compiled as frequently, but those that are available reveal general trends in college course-taking over the last part of the 20th century, shedding some light on the extent to which young Americans are bringing humanistic knowledge and skills with them into civic and occupational arenas after college.

II-09a: College Courses Most Commonly Taken by Bachelor’s Degree Recipients, 1972–1992*

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* Ranked by the average percentage of students across all three cohorts to have taken the course.

Source: Clifford Adelman, The Empirical Curriculum: Changes in Postsecondary Course-Taking (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education, 2004); Adelman analyzes data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, High School and Beyond/Sophomore Cohort, and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.

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