What Are College General Education (Gen Ed) Requirements

A class of students sitting in a college classroom looking at a whiteboard, studying what is written on it.

General Education classes, frequently called Gen Ed, are classes that all undergraduates must take to fulfill General Education requirements. Gen Ed classes include basic courses like English, history, math, philosophy, art, physical education, and biology. These classes are essential. Therefore, all students are required to take them.

The main purpose of General Education courses are to promote critical thinking and understanding. A student must be exposed to many academic disciplines. This will allow you to gain basic knowledge about a variety of subjects. This creates a student who is well-rounded in general education. While the focus of your education will be on your major as you specialize in a specific subject, a student will need to know about general topics to navigate through academics and life successfully.

Community College

Efficiency is key to graduating quickly and without student debt. One of the best ways to do that is for students to attend a community college for their General Education requirements. Community college is more affordable and there are a wide range of classes to choose from. There are also many time slots available to fit a variety of schedules. Be sure all of your classes transfer to your chosen university before you take them.

By completing an AA or AS degree prior to transferring to a university, students will have attained junior standing and may have met all lower-division General Education requirements upon transfer. There are many benefits to transferring as a junior. Not only will you have seniority and be able to register for classes sooner, but a student can also go right into their major. This saves time and money.

General Education Core

While university standards vary from school to school, there are several categories of classes you will likely find on your Gen Ed requirements. The purpose of General Education courses are to teach diverse skills that every student should learn. They focus on the development of critical and analytical thinking abilities, understanding emerging technologies, evaluating biological, physical, and natural sciences, familiarity with cultural diversity, and an appreciation for arts and humanities.

Most General Education core classes include the following categories: Communications, Mathematics, Physical and Life Sciences, Humanities and Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Recommended Major Courses/Electives. A student will pick from several pre-set classes that fall within these six categories. There is usually flexibility in fulfilling requirements and creating academic schedules, there’s a little something for everyone.

How To Choose Classes

Choosing which courses you take greatly depends on your interests and what subjects you excel in. Using my alma mater, Butte Community College, as an example, we will go over how to select Gen Ed classes for a transfer student.

A list of California State University general education classes requirements.

If we look under Area B, Science Inquiry And Quantitative Reasoning, to meet the Area B Gen Ed requirements a student must take at least three courses which equal 9 credits, with one course each from B1, B2, and B4. Area B3 is just a requirement of a laboratory course. This means when you are picking classes from Areas, B1 and B2 you must pick one that has a lab. As you can see there are a lot of different courses and subjects to choose from.

Science was one of my least favorite subjects, I wanted to avoid taking chemistry, physics, and biology as I had no interest in them. As a business major, I knew I wouldn’t need them. From Area B1 I took AGS 50. This is a General Soils class that has a lab (the lab satisfies Area B3, lab requirement). With this one class, I satisfied Areas B1 and B3.  For Area B2 I took ANTH 2, Physical Anthropology. Area B4 which is Mathematics, I took several classes in this area because I am a Business Major, and both of my math classes could be used for my major too. I took MATH 18, Introduction to Statistics, and MATH 12, Mathematics for Business Decisions.

Butte College General Education Classes

My Academic Plan For General Education

As you can see, I met my General Education Science Requirements without taking any intense science courses. For my academic plan and preference, this route was ideal. I am not interested in science classes, and they would have been difficult for me. We all know what happens when we take classes we don’t like. The time drags on, we aren’t engaged, our minds tend to drift, we skip class, and we are not motivated to do homework. Throughout our academic careers, there will be classes that we don’t like, the goal is to take as few of them as possible.

Don’t Waste Your Time

To be efficient try and take courses that meet both a Gen Ed and a major requirement. This saves time and money as you can get two for one out of a class. Also, try and avoid courses that are hard if they are not going to be useful in your major. For example, if you know you will not be going into a science major and your school requires a science general course (which they all do), then pick the science course that will be the simplest for you to complete. There is no reason to struggle and stress your already busy schedule with a class that is more difficult than necessary.

Declaring Your Major

Generally, you don’t need to complete all your Gen Ed courses before declaring your major. In fact, if you haven’t chosen a major it would be wise to take Gen Ed classes that are in an area you think you might want to major in, the courses may double count. For those students who are not sure what they want to major in, taking Gen Ed classes might expose you to something that interests you and help you declare your major.

If you are unsure of what you want to major in, How To Choose A Major When You Are Undecided will give you some tips on how to narrow it down.