How to Choose College Electives

There's a little more to it than just picking the classes about TV shows and movies . . . although they're cool too.

Elective classes are unique opportunities to explore new subject matter. Every college student will have the opportunity to choose a limited number of them. Unfortunately, many students simply choose courses that fit into their schedule. But that’s blowing a chance to make their college experience more well-rounded and enjoyable.

Here are some of the things college students should think about before choosing an elective.

Explore majors through your electives

Undecided students (the majority of entering freshmen) are encouraged to take electives in fields of study they are considering. If a student is contemplating majoring in psychology, philosophy, or chemistry, these courses should all be on their electives list.

Many students take an introductory class in a field of study they are considering only to find out they have little to no interest in the subject. And if a student is bored with the subject after three months, they probably don’t want to work in the field for 30+ years.

Also remember that freshman year of college can be stressful, and lower-level classes often only skim the surface. It’s a good idea to take two or three classes in any given field before making any major decisions.

Take something you've always wanted to but never could

Remember that college students are free to explore their education and broaden their horizons with the subject matter of their choice. (This isn’t like high school, when students often choose electives they think will look good on a college application.)

If a student always wanted to paint but never had a chance to take an art class, now is the opportunity to receive credit for it. Or if a student always wanted to learn about the science behind yoga, they may be able to take a kinesiology class or, in some cases, an actual yoga class in order to receive elective credit. Elective courses offer students a chance to truly love their course material.

Important note: students should make sure they are taking these experimental classes as a non-major. For example, students taking Painting 101 for non-majors will often be graded on effort, improvement, and ability to follow directions, whereas students majoring in art will be graded on their talent and technical skill.

Consider the social aspect of the course

Many students find the large lecture hall experience to be impersonal. Although a number of introductory courses are only offered in this format, most students enrolled in these courses are losing out on valuable social experiences. If a student would like a more social experience in their elective class, they should look at the number of students allowed in the course. If the course closes at 30 students, they are more likely to have a chance to get to know some of their classmates in a more intimate setting. On the other hand, the elective course might close at 300 students—just another lecture.

Students should also consider the set-up in the classroom. Art classes offered in a studio and science classes conducted in a lab often provide a more intimate setting where students can collaborate on the work and get to know each other.

Choose class formats convenient to you

When it comes to choosing an elective, students are encouraged to think about the particular class format they prefer. For instance, if a student is working a part-time job to supplement their education, they may find that it makes life easier to take their electives online, if they’re offered in that format.

Online classes still have due dates but generally don’t require students to attend class at a specific time, which allows them to work their assigned shifts. Blended learning courses are also a good option for students who are balancing work and study. If a student will only be accountable to go to campus twice a month, it may be much easier for them to maintain their part-time job and continue to study online in their free time.

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