There are some basic do’s and don’ts about gen ends. Do: pick classes that you’re interested in, actually learn, and make some friends. Don’t: just go with the easiest class, procrastinate, and lean back on your high school experience. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, which is why we explain each below.
When creating a freshman year college schedule, there will be a very important curriculum of classes that need scheduled: general education classes. These well meaning classes get a bad rap. For the few who attend college with a predestined career path, general education or “Gen Eds” are loathed and seen as an obstacle to get to “the good stuff.” However, for the majority of students who still are not quite sure what their chosen path is, these classes are excellent opportunities to be introduced to a subject you know little about. Not to mention they are tools to make you a well-rounded student. Here are some suggestions when choosing your general education courses.
Do: Select courses that pique your interest
Rather than choosing the generic every-freshman-takes-this-history-class option, search for one that seems appealing to you. If it is a unique course, there is a better chance of the class being small, allowing for more discussion which generates ideas and cultivates critical thinking. By being more engaged with the subject matter, you may develop an interest or even passion in the subject. It could even lead you to select a certain major because you took this class.
Don’t: Choose the easiest general education classes
Finding balance in your college schedule is important. If you are completely bogged down with “difficult” courses it will be hard to succeed. However, taking an easy course for that fact alone is not a good idea. If the subject sounds absolutely terrible to you, why does it matter if it is easy? Choose subjects that have a genuine appeal to you. That way you will be more engaged in the coursework and learn something valuable to take with you.
Do: Use them as a learning opportunity
There is indeed a purpose behind requiring college students to take Gen Eds. Part of having a well rounded education is exploring all fields of study. Most topics include English, Math, Social Science, Physical Science, and Humanities. It is important to enroll in these courses because each one will give you a certain set of transferrable skills that will lead you to be successful in whichever career you choose. These courses aim to build your critical thinking, writing skills (for any future research paper), oral communication, global awareness, and problem solving skills. Do see these courses as an opportunity to add true value to your education.
Don’t: Put them off
General education courses are intended to be taken early on in your college career. This is due to the fact that most students have not decided upon a major, or are open to changing. Gen Eds will give you a high level overview of different subjects and if you are interested in a specific one you can dive deeper into an area of study to find your niche. Assuming you know exactly what you want to do and trying to get into higher level courses before taking general education classes can end up being detrimental. Having never explored those options, you’ve shut a door. You could end up as a junior pursuing an “okay” major, take a Gen Ed, realize it is your passion and now you are way off track for graduation. That would be a tough situation to choose between a ho-hum major and four year graduation or an interesting major with a six year graduation. Avoid this hard decision by taking your Gen Eds early and experiencing a well rounded education before choosing your specialization.
Do: Get to know your classmates
The beauty of general education courses is that they are a melting pot of different college students. Once you get into your major courses, you will spend most of your days in class with students similar to you. There will of course be interactions with your roommates, club mates, and co-workers who may be in a different field, but a large portion will be spent with our major buddies. General education courses will be an excellent opportunity for you to make friends with students who have different academic interests. This will broaden your horizons and challenge your beliefs, which is a key piece of learning in college.
Don’t: Bias your selection from high school courses
High school is not nearly as specialized as college when it comes to a field of interest. At any given time in high school you are taking many courses from different disciplines. Once you have selected your major in college, that opportunity usually diminishes. However, just because you did not like a certain subject in high school, don’t let that bias your decisions when choosing courses in college. Maybe history was the most boring subject imaginable to you, but you realize that could have been because of the teacher or you did not give it a fighting chance. Do not let this attitude influence how you perceive your history Gen Eds. Enrolling in the class begrudgingly and having a bad attitude will inhibit you from having a meaningful experience. Think of this as a fresh start and a new opportunity to obtain knowledge. Isn’t that what you are after anyway, college student?
In conclusion, if you’ve completed your college search and found the right college match, you are probably daydreaming about your time attending the college. Discovering what your major will be can be overwhelming, but can be greatly influenced by paying careful attention to what general education courses you enroll in. These will be excellent opportunities to build transferable job skills, make a diverse set of friends, and choose what you want to major in.