It used to be standard that a student could expect to finish their bachelor’s degree in four years, but many factors, including changing majors and holding down a job while studying, have contributed to many students finishing in five or even six years. At first glance, it may seem as if general education courses only exacerbate the problem. Why should you have to take a bunch of “fluff” classes when you’re having a hard enough time finishing school? We’ll take a look at scenarios in which general education courses can actually help you.
Scenario #1: You haven’t yet decided on a major
This is where general education courses are particularly useful. Say, for example, you excelled at math and history in high school, but you’re not exactly sold on committing four years to either subject. General education courses will expose you to a wide variety of subjects, ranging from geology to anthropology to drama. In college, you’ll find that the variety of courses you can take is much broader in scope than what you experienced in high school. While you’re still mulling over the possibilities for your major, you can take a year or more of general education courses, which may introduce you to an area you’re passionate about that you didn’t even know existed.
Scenario #2: You have many interests and wish to dabble in them as much as possible
Imagine that you enter college your freshman year knowing exactly what you’d like to study. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re determined to earn your degree in business administration. You know you’ll be working hard in the classes toward your major, but you also excelled in choir in high school and would like to continue to pursue singing. There may be a general education course in vocal arts, and if not, there’s bound to be a musical elective at your university. This is an important point: don’t be so focused on earning your degree that you feel obligated to participate in courses only if it’s required. By all means, if you have other passions, pursue them. This is what college is for!
Scenario #3: You want to become a more well-rounded person
This is another important way in which general education courses can enrich your life. For example, if you’re majoring in marine biology, it doesn’t hurt to take a course or two in journalism. Although not directly related to your major, developing writing skills may help you in your career down the road. If you’re called upon to write a grant or a professional paper, you’ll have acquired the tools you need to excel at these tasks.
So before you start grumbling about your general education courses, consider the factors outlined above. Universities don’t require these courses in order to make graduating more difficult. They truly want you to succeed and come through your college education a stronger person.