Knowing how to pick your college classes is key to graduating on time. The goal is always, “Through In Two, Finish In Four”. To meet that timeline, you must pick the right classes. Picking the right classes can be confusing and overwhelming especially when you’re first starting because there are many courses to choose from.
In reality, it’s not that hard to pick your classes because your college will tell you exactly what you need to take. Every year, from your Freshman to your Senior, you will be provided with the exact classes you need to take to graduate.
Classes are broken down into 2 types of classes, General Education (Gen Ed) and Major. Within Gen Ed and Major classes, there will be prerequisites and electives.
Get Your Gen Ed And Major Requirements Sheets From Your College
Before we go any further, I want you to go to your college’s website and get their General Education requirements. If you know your major get your major requirements too. All colleges have these available online. You can pick one up in the academic advising office too. Print them out and keep them where you can find them. You will reference it every single semester. This sheet will be your map to choosing your classes.
Note: If you are going to a community college there may be several different Gen Ed requirements. There will be an AA/AS Gen Ed requirement sheet. There will be an AA/AS Transfer Student requirement sheet. And a Major requirement sheet.
I attended community college and knew I wanted to transfer and major in business. Therefore, at the community college level, I only used the Gen Ed Transfer requirement sheet and the Business Major requirement sheet. When I transferred to my university, I just used my Major requirement sheet. When I was accepted into the master’s program, I used the requirement sheet for my MBA.
What Are College Gen Ed Requirements
General Education classes 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 regardless of major. These will be the bulk of your classes.
The main purpose of General Education courses is to promote critical thinking and understanding. Being exposed to several academic disciplines 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.
Within Gen Ed classes, there are prerequisite and elective classes.
A major consists of a group of courses that emphasizes a depth of study in a particular field. A student must take all required classes in order to receive a degree. Your major will have a Degree Requirements Sheet.
Within Major classes, there are prerequisite and elective classes.
What Are Prerequisites
A prerequisite course is a required class that must be completed prior to enrolling in a more advanced course within the same subject. Prerequisites essentially prepare you to be successful in a related course. Generally, the prerequisite course is taught at a lower level and covers information and concepts that you will be expected to know before taking the higher-level class. Completing the prerequisite course demonstrates that you are proficient enough to advance to the next level of coursework.
Since prerequisites require you to take classes in chronological order, you must know what you need to take and when. Often classes are offered once a year, or they are very impacted and hard to get it. If you miss taking a prerequisite class, it can throw your entire semester off and potentially your graduation schedule.
Sometimes it is difficult to know if a class has a required prerequisite. Classes that require a previously completed course as the prerequisite are typically indicated in the class schedule with an asterisk (*) symbol. Usually, you will be able to click on the asterisk or hover over it to read what the prerequisites are. Sometimes there is a dropdown menu. Some course descriptions will state if there is a prerequisite and what it is.
College Elective Classes
Elective college classes are classes that count toward your credits for graduation but are not requirements for a student’s major. At the community college level, you may not have to take any electives. If you do these classes will count toward your major. Therefore, I want you to only concentrate on your Gen Ed requirements and your major requirements.
At the university level, typically, electives will be in your major. The number of elective credits depends on the credits required by a student’s major. You will have a group of classes to choose from. For example. My bachelor’s degree required 9 elective credits, which is equal to three classes. I had a group of 19 classes to choose from. As a business major, I was able to choose whether I wanted to take electives in Accounting, Finance, International Business, Marketing, or Supply Chain Management.
Whether you are at the community college level or university, I want you to take elective classes last or only when nothing else can fit into your schedule. It’s important to take what is required first. There’s wiggle room with elective classes so take them last or when you can fit them in.
How To Choose College Classes
Choosing which courses you take greatly depends on your interests, what subjects you excel in, your major, and your schedule. Using my alma mater, Butte College, as an example, we will go over how to select Gen Ed classes for a transfer student.
If we look under Area A: English Language, Communication and Critical Thinking. It very clearly shows us the requirements. Three courses, 9 semester units, with at least one course each from A1, A2, and A3. This means you will pick one class from each section. Area A is simple as there are not a lot of choices and requirements. But we can break it down further.
In section A1- Oral Communication, you have three classes to choose from. Let’s look at these for a moment. CMST 2 is Public Speaking. Most students dread this class as speaking in public can be hard. CMST 2H, Honors Public Speaking. A student will not be able to take this class without taking CMST 2 first. Since this class will require a student to take public speaking first let’s cross this one off our list because you’ve met the requirement if you take this one. CMST 4, Small Group Communication. Speaking in small groups is much easier therefore, most students gravitate toward this class. This is the class most students will try and take. Since it is preferred it may be hard to get into.
This is the process of elimination that you need to go through with every single section. If it’s for your associate’s or bachelor’s degree you should look at the classes required and take what interests you or what fits into your schedule.