You have some degree of flexibility in planning your class schedule while in college, but if you ask any upperclassman for advice, they’re probably going to tell you the same thing: “get your gen ed classes out of the way first.”
It’s good advice for a couple of reasons, but most importantly: it gives you a chance to try different fields of study on for size, to see if you might discover a passion you never knew existed.
What are general education courses?
Sometimes referred to as "core classes," general education courses are a required step in almost all degree programs. These are introductory courses that cover the fundamentals of a subject—think 100-level courses like English 101.
Generally, there are a few reasons it’s a good idea to take these classes early on:
- You’re more likely to enroll alongside other freshmen or new students
- You’ll build important skills in studying and critical thinking that will help you in later, more intensive courses
- You may be required to take a gen ed course before enrolling in a class in your major (for example, you may need to finish your math credit as a prerequisite to your first engineering course)
- You probably won’t want to take English 101 when you’re a senior
Many college freshmen think that by taking electives—optional courses of study—they will get a feeling for a future career path. However, by enrolling in general education classes this can happen just as easily. And since they are required courses no matter what major you choose, you will be getting them out of the way and checking off your "Bingo sheet" early on in college.
Gen eds might surprise you
Sign up for a variety of gen ed courses to get a well-rounded view of different subjects. One semester could have you taking history, English, music, and earth science classes. You might be surprised—subjects you thought you disliked may turn into a new interest, and eventually your major. After all, just because you hated your trigonometry class in high school doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel the same about your new college one.
What if I already know what I want to do?
Pursuing your life's passion can translate into a fruitful career. If you already know what degree program you will be pursuing in college, you know what classes to take. That means you can start trying to get a foot in the door as early in your college experience as you want. You can figure this out early on with the help of a college mentor.
Talk to your college or university's career services office or alumni association to find a mentor in your desired career field. You will develop a network of relationships with that mentor's help, and be well on your way to a full-time job right out of college.
Outside the classroom—internship opportunities
Similar to how gen ed classes provide an opportunity to try out new and different fields of study, internships give you a chance to experience different careers first-hand. Taking part in an internship lets you see where a particular degree could take you after college and how you’ll apply what you learn while on the job. Check in with your university’s career services office to find out what internships might be available to you.
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