Let's say, a student is counseling with an academic adviser about his next year's class selection.

Student : Now that I finished up my second year of coursework, I feel like I need some direction and I've come to see what you think of my proposed schedule for next semester.

Adviser ( hereunder same ) Let me take a look at what you've been doing and then I'll take a look at what you are doing.

Fair enough. When I was a Freshman, I took only courses that fulfilled basic requirements, you know Geology 101, Economics 150, Philosophy 102 and the like.

Yes, and your transcript indicates that you did very well in all of the courses.

That was part of my problem. I enjoyed all of the courses and it didn't help that I excelled in whatever class I took.

Can anyone teach me the last italic part, what the phrase it didn't help me that I excelled in whatever class I took could indicate? I am sorry I lost here what he would like to say. Would he have lost another non fundamental class not like that he took to fulfill the fundamental requirements?

Thank you in advance.

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    It looks like the student is seeking advice about what subjects to concentrate on for his next year at college - in general terms, that's his problem. But part of the problem is that he excelled (did very well) in every class he took, so one of the most obvious ways of deciding (concentrate on what you enjoy, and/or do well at) is no use to him (it doesn't help) because all subjects are equally good from that perspective. Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 18:48
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you for your answer. Actually you are one of the kindest and reasonable persons I've ever met on ELL and ELU. That said, I am sorry I don't understand, what is it what didn't help?? And let me confirm with you he excelled over another courses besides the fundamentals. am I right here??
    – user17814
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 18:56
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    The mods (especially on ELL) don't like me keep posting "answers as comments", and I know I'm often skating on thin ice because of that. But be that as it may (don't worry - I'm just using complicated and "unusual" phrasing to keep you on your toes! :), the bit about it didn't help is a kind of "understatement". It's not just that the fact of the student liking and being good at every subject didn't help him make his choice - in reality it actually made it harder for him to choose. We often say that didn't help when we mean that made the problem more difficult. Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 19:08
  • @ahhmm...I apologize I am getting a bit perplexed. Let me have some time to read your comments thoroughly and carefully (m_m).
    – user17814
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 19:15
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    I might be going offline soon. But if you're able to follow this link to ELL chat I'm sure either myself or someone else will be able to help you with things that aren't really suitable as "Questions". Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 19:23

2 Answers 2


This dialogue is probably referencing a US-based college. There, it's common to take introductory classes that fulfill general requirements for your first two years. You may have an idea of what you want to "major" (focus on) and take some of those courses too.

At the end of your second year, you often need to declare your major and take multiple classes that are required for your major. The student has done very well is every class he took, and presumably liked every class. If he had excelled in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) classes but didn't do as well in English, Politics, and so on, then he might want to major in a STEM field. It sounds like he doesn't have a preference so he can't use class performance to help narrow down his choice of a major.

To summarize--if the student had excelled in a single class, that subject might be what he should pick for his major. He excelled in every class, so he cannot use that criteria to choose his major.

  • Thank you very much for your introduction of the U.S educational system. However, please kindly take a careful look at mine,my question is, what would the phrase it didn't help that I excelled in whatever class I took. mean. According to FumbleFingers, would that mean, being good at fundamental classes would not help or did not help him in another class???????
    – user17814
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 21:23
  • I'm trying to explain that in my second paragraph. If he had excelled in a single class, that would be one way to decide what his major should be
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 21:25
  • Thank you for your answer. Though to native speakers, it would be very easy, but to a non native speaker like me, it it a killing task^^.
    – user17814
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 21:29
  • ah...see...I'm beginning to understand the nuance. He excelled in every ( basic ) class, so that that didn't help him to choose which major he would choose from next semester. I see. Thanks!
    – user17814
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 21:41
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    Exactly. It didn't help him to make his choice.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 0:20

That I liked all of my classes equally well and did well in all of them did not help me to decide which classes to take now.

The underlying assumption is that one would not pursue an area of study one found boring, or in which one had performed poorly. He has been unable to eliminate options in that way.

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