Congratulations! You have been accepted to the university of your choice, and you are signing up for your first semester’s classes. You can hardly wait to get into your major and well on your way to your future career.
But, wait. Your academic advisor tells you that you need to first take gen ed courses.
What are these gen ed classes?
Why are they required?
What can be gained from them?
Most colleges and universities require their students to take general education courses, such as psychology, social sciences, and foreign language. You may be thinking gen ed courses are a waste of time, and honestly, some of them may feel like that. But, there are important reasons why college students are required to take gen ed courses.
Let’s explore this topic in depth.
Here is everything you need to know about general education courses.
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What are General Education Courses?
First, let’s look at the general education requirements’ definition:
General education courses are a broad range of classes in specific categories that meet specific criteria. These categories are your school’s general education requirements.
General education requirements are categories of knowledge your school requires you to gain a working knowledge of before you graduate.
These categories are usually include subjects like:
- Natural Science
- Social Science
- World studies
Most of the time, gen ed requirements cover one-third to one-half of an undergraduate degree and are completed before you start working on the core curriculum of your major.
Related Resource: What is an Associate’s Degree?
Why Is General Education Required?
Colleges and universities want “well rounded” graduates. Higher education institutions require these general education courses to help students gain a comprehensive education which they hope will serve you throughout your life after graduation.
Gen ed classes are also a great opportunity for you to try out different topics to see if you like them. Some students don’t decide on their major until after they have taken a fabulous gen ed course. Some students may prepare to study one major, but then take some gen ed courses and decide to change their whole course of study.
Also, gen ed classes teach you valuable skills such as critical thinking and communication. Let’s face it: gen ed courses are ones you may not choose to take if they were not required. However, think of them as a comprehensive set of classes that each add something unique to your skill set. For example, diversity courses teach students how to appreciate and embrace differences and lead to working well in a diverse workplace.
Many general education courses also afford students the opportunity of expanding their chosen field of study to gain an emphasis in a related aspect of their chosen majors. For example an English major can take some great in-depth general education classes on poetry. Or an engineering major could take general education courses on bio-mechanics.
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What Can I Gain From Gen Ed Courses?
So much can be gained from taking gen ed classes. General education can give you the foundation you need to become highly intelligent in your field of study and in life after college.
Gen ed courses can pave the way for you:
- To be better at your chosen field
- To provide you with new hobbies
- To develop meaningful relationships
- To perhaps even change your mind about your chosen field of study
Try to lose the mindset that taking gen ed courses is wasting time. First of all, all university programs require gen ed courses, so you are working your way toward your final goal. Secondly, you will learn new subjects, and you may develop a new passion.
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What Is a Good Way to Take General Education Courses?
College is expensive, and some universities have quite lengthy general education requirements. However, there are smarter ways to complete your gen eds.
If you’re going to an expensive university, you might just want to hold off attending until you’ve completed your gen ed courses at an in-state community college. Just make sure you can transfer general education credits before you take them and pay for them.
You can make sure the credits transfer by working with an advisor at both your university and your in-state community college.
Your school may require you to fulfill general education requirements that you know will not interest you or advance your career in any way. When you encounter these types of situations, take the easiest class you possibly can.
For example, if you know you will not ever become a fine arts major, but your school requires a fine arts general course, then pick the fine arts course that will be the simplest to complete for you. There is no reason to bog down your already busy schedule with a class that is more difficult than necessary.
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What Gen Ed Courses Should I Take?
Choosing gen ed courses can be a fun part of attending college. If you have chosen a field of study, look to see if there are any requirements that overlap with your gen ed courses (it happens sometimes), and then fill in the gaps with classes that interest you.
If you have not chosen a major, then it would be wise to take general education classes that cover subjects that interest you and could be potential majors.
Common gen ed courses include:
- English composition
- Natural Sciences
- Social sciences
- Foreign languages
- Diversity and Inclusion
However, take a wide variety of courses so that you can experience as many possible fields of study as you can.
Remember, your college or university requires a certain number of general education credits. There’s no way of getting out of them, so you might as well have fun with them.
How Can I Know If A Gen Ed Class Will Work For Me?
When signing up for a gen course, you will see a description of the class. Additionally, there are many websites you can find that rate your professor, the course, and the course load. Do your research before committing to a class to make sure that you will be able to complete your gen eds, work well with your professor, and handle the course load.
Also, most colleges and universities make professor and course evaluation results available for you to see if the class would work well for you.
Do I Have to Complete Gen Eds Before Declaring My Major?
You do not have to complete all of your gen eds before declaring your major. In fact, if you know your major it would be good to check to see if any of the required courses in our major double as courses for your general education requirements.
If you do not have a chosen major, don’t worry. Most students don’t choose their majors right away. It is good to explore your options to be sure of your path.
Where Can I Get Advice On Which Gen Ed Courses Would Be Good For Me?
Your school will provide you with an academic advisor. These professionals can help you discuss your general education requirements, and if you would like they can suggest some great general education courses that will help you explore your options. Your advisors are also great resources on gaining information on specific classes.
When Should I Complete My General Education Classes?
For most majors, there is no specific time frame for completing your general education credits. Some students don’t complete them until their last semester, while others have them completed by their junior year.
Talk to your advisor to see if your major has any time frame requirements for completing your general education requirements.
Keep in mind that college majors with time frames for completing your general education are highly specified. For example, Med school, law school, and some teaching programs require you to have completed all generals before your senior year, or before a completion of an internship, or practicum.
How Do I Know If A General Education Course Is Worth the Effort?
Some general education courses are more difficult than others, but often they are all worth the effort. If a gen ed course interests you, advances your career, or makes you feel passionate about the work you are doing, then the extra effort is definitely worth it.